Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has stated health and social issues will emerge following the concessions given for the sale of beer in the budget 2018 and it would be an encouragement for youngsters to consume alcohol. Making beer more affordable could entice youngsters to try out beer. It would encourage them to move onto hard liquor later.
He was participating in the Committee stage debate on the budget 2018 in Parliament. He went on that the statistics given to the Finance Minister that 49 percent of alcohol users consume illegally brewed alcohol has no grounds. The NATA has commenced an investigation to get the proper statistics and it will complete soon. In 1990, the same proposal was brought to provide concessions for beer. According to data we have gathered from the Police, Excise Department and Divisional Secretariats, the consumption of illegal alcohol has reduced. The actual number of persons who consume illegally brewed alcohol is only between 2.5 percent and 6 percent, not 49 percent.
Elaborating his plea against concession to beer sales, he said the Finance Minister had compared the European countries to Sri Lanka, but this comparison could not be made as beer consumption in the West is basically a part of their culture and food habits. He said that in Sri Lanka and other Asian countries, people consume alcohol to get a high or to reach a level of intoxication. The Health Ministry together with the World Health Organisation had carried out a survey and concluded that 35 percent of males over 15 years of age consume alcohol, but only 1 percent females.