Alcohol Consumption In Sri Lanka

Data from IPS, dumped into a Google Doc

Sri Lanka’s Institute For Policy Studies blog has an interesting post on booze consumption. One especially salient factoid was the jump in hard liquor consumption and the relative flatness of beer (graphed above). It’s also notable that the statistics are skewed because more people drink illicit liquor, which isn’t counted.

Interesting Points

  • The [legal alcohol] industry contributed around Rs. 23 billion in 2007 and Rs. 27 billion in 2008 as excise tax.
  • It has been estimated that there are over 200,000 illicit brew retailers, compared to the 3,200 licensed retail shops (“wine stores”) in the country

For me the takeway is this: ” Political influences, weak law enforcement, and unaffordable prices of legal liquor are the determinant factors of the thriving trend of illicit alcohol. The argument articulated by the legal alcohol industry that controls and restrictions only serve to increase the consumption of illicit alcohol is very valid in the Sri Lanka context.”

Any discussion of Sri Lankan alcohol and alcoholism is pointless unless you talk about kasippu (home brew). The government has imposed taxation to curb consumption, but that doesn’t work if most people are consuming a completely illegal brew. All it does is make the illicit brew more attractive.

Policy Options

Here are some suggestions, off the top of my head.

  • Drop taxes such that beer can compete with kasippu, then increase taxes once the kasippu industry is weakened.
  • Crack down on kasippu dens and keep government officials and police out of the corrupt business of supporting them.
  • Manage economic policy better such that men can find decent work and support their families with dignity
  • Legalize marijuana.

Anyways, the full article by G.D. Dayaratne is worth a read.

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the way of the dodo
2011-07-04 15:07:37

Does the ‘hard alcohol’ graph also include illicit liquor

2011-07-04 17:41:56

No. this does not account for kassipu consumption! (Which is illegal and therefore nearly impossible to monitor)…factor that in and you’ll have some real disturbing data.

There was an awesome study done about 5-6 years ago and it really tries to deal with this “x-factor” … available by lakehouse publishers. Will try to post the title.

2011-07-04 21:42:50

I found this in a WHO Report:

“Kassipu contributed 65% of ethanol consumed by the community, arrack contributed 28% and beer 3%”

Sri Lanka’s alcohol consumption looks really low if you don’t factor kassipu (and toddy) in

(Comments wont nest below this level)
2011-07-04 16:18:14

Nope, only stuff like arrack and legit booze

2011-07-04 17:46:08

With regard to your policy options:

1. Kassipu will always have a foothold among the boozers in lower economic strata. Dropping taxes on beer will work on the short run, but the guys who like the Kassipu high will always desire that. Beer doesn’t come close. A better alternative: reduce taxes on arrack.

2. Ain’t gonna happen. Not in our lifetimes at least, man.

3. Idealism. I like it, but the world has stopped being idealistic a long time ago. This country certainly.

4. I’d support it. Wholeheartedly. But too many people, err, high up will always want marijuana criminalized for their own ulterior purposes.

2011-07-04 17:50:33

It’d be interesting to have regional figures for alcohol consumption. There’s an often mooted point about how SL is the Ireland of Asia for our drinking habits – and in my experience, Sri Lankans generally out drink their Asian counterparts. Would be interesting to see how that notion holds up from a statistical standpoint.

2011-07-04 21:45:49

per regional consumption, there’s some data in the latest WHO report (2011).

Sri Lankans consume an average of 0.8 liters of pure alcohol compared to a South Asian average of 2.2. Again, I think this is unrealistic cause it doesn’t could kassipu.

2011-07-05 09:29:18

That looks like a 50% increase in the past ten years? So it seems like people have increased their usual consumption as it’s unlikely that the total increase represents new consumers, unless there was a consequent drop in the consumption of illicit brew.

More than policy, there should be some change in social attitudes in the lower income groups. It’s too late for the older generation, but youngsters could be prevented from following in their parents’ footsteps if there were more avenues, access and encouragement for other recreation. Desegregation of the sexes would also help. We need some places with clean entertainment where parents should allow young people to mix. I beleive we still have almost no young female consumers of alcohol except among the Colombo elite, and young men would be less inclined to booze heavily if they were in mixed company.

2011-07-05 10:07:44

75 million L for a nation of 20 million; that would imply the average person was consuming 3.75 liters of alcohol a year. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, you’d have to look at the figures for larger, smaller, and similar sized populations of other nations.

2012-01-10 09:01:05

[...] Kasippu consumption is more common than any other alcohol, and much more destructive. If that’s dropping and more people are getting on the legal grid, all the better. [...]

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