The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) has proposed in a bid to eliminate drunk driving that the maximum blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of drivers be gazetted as 0.03 grams per 100 millilitres.
Chairman of the NATA, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon said that this would amount to one drink for the road, which he added would not be quite sufficient in terms of the alcohol being absorbed into the bloodstream.
The current BAC is at 0.08 which would amount to about having four drinks, and while some have proposed that the limit should be made 0.00, still others have suggested that it should be 0.05, he added.
We concentrate on the fact that alcohol is a product as opposed to taking the approach of looking at both the product and the drinker together, he noted, adding that this is because of the illegal liquor lobby in the country, and the economic harm, physical harm, social harm in terms of psychological harm and harm to the family, due to alcohol use.
If we issue guidelines to regulate and limit the harmful use of alcohol as is done in Western countries which are big alcohol producers, we would basically be kicking the door wide open as those who are drinkers here are not very responsible drinkers, he opined.
“This is why we address alcohol as a harmful product,” Dr. Abeykoon explained.
“The per capita amount of ethanol consumption per year in Sri Lanka is about 3.3 litres to 3.5 litres. In Western countries, almost 97% of the men and women take alcohol, yet in Sri Lanka it is only 35% of the people,” said.
“There is a high level of abstinence in that 65% do not drink. Therefore, the alcohol consumed per person is four or five times more in Sri Lanka than is the case in Western countries. It is about 20 litres per capita per annum. We are among the hardest tipplers,” elaborated.