EDITORIAL: Strict policy

Since advertisements pertaining to alcohol are one of the major sources of revenue for the print media this might place them in a tight spot

Considering the immense damage that alcohol consumption is doing to the health of those who partake of it and society as a whole the government has brought out a new policy on the sale and distribution of alcohol. The Cabinet approved the “National Alcohol Control Policy, 2073” Monday. From now on, as per the policy, alcohol bottles should display the pictures of damaged livers and hearts from alcohol consumption. This should cover 75 per cent of the bottle and also include prominently the message that “alcohol is harmful to health”. Excessive drinking of alcohol can cause a number of diseases which are non-communicable. Prominent among these are diseases of the heart, kidney and liver. Alcohol abuse is also responsible for road accidents through drink driving and also domestic violence. According to a health survey carried out in 2011, about 70 per cent of the spouses of inebriated husbands suffer from physical violence. Consumption of alcohol is also the cause of many serious crimes, including murder.

The policy envisages that no alcohol would be served at public functions like marriage parties. The sale of alcohol by retailers would be prohibited from 5am to 7pm. Moreover, it is not permitted to buy more than one litre of alcohol at one time. The World Health Organization has put forth several strategies to reduce deaths caused by alcohol consumption and Nepal has officially adopted it. Minors should also not be sold alcohol. The retailers selling alcohol should have special permits. In case the alcohol they sell is adulterated or whose date is expired they should face the music. The WHO states that 25 per cent of the deaths of those aged between 20 to 39 are due to alcohol. Worldwide 3.3 million deaths every year are attributed to alcohol abuse. This is a staggering 5.9 per cent of all deaths.

There is already a government policy to deal with tobacco products as well to control the tobacco related diseases. Although the government makes a lot of revenue through their sales, it has to pay more for the treatment of the diseases blamed on tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Now the advertisement of alcohol, like tobacco, will no longer be permitted in the print media too. Earlier they were banned only in the electronic media. The policy bans the alcohol companies from using actresses of films, tele-dramas, news and also entertainment programmes. The display of the brand logo of alcohol production would also not be entertained at any cost. Since advertisements pertaining to alcohol are one of the major sources of revenue for the print media this might place them in a tight spot. But this is justified considering the enormous damage that excessive consumption of alcohol is doing. Moreover, that workers spend 15 per cent of their earnings on alcohol is another food for thought. Overall, the new government policy on the sale and distribution of alcohol should therefore be taken up positively as it would be doing more good than harm. However, the implementation should be strict and there should be no room for exceptions and loopholes.

Oil theft

The oil tanker drivers’ protest programme has disrupted the supply of petroleum products in the Kathmandu Valley, triggering a panic among vehicle owners who have been lining up at the petrol pumps fearing shortages. This has artificially hiked the demand, making it difficult to provide diesel and petrol according to demand despite the fact that the Nepal Oil Corporation has doubled their supply to the petrol pumps. The oil tanker drivers’ organization has put forward several demands, and to address some of them it would be necessary to amend the petroleum products transportation regulations.

The NOC is reported to have agreed to address their demands. For example, the drivers’ complaints that the dealers they work for do not give them salaries or give a very low amount should be seriously investigated and the NOC should ensure that they get their due. But the regulation that requires a penalty of double the price of the oil stolen is fair, and has also been applied in many other cases. Its withdrawal would only encourage oil theft. In this case, the NOC must stay firm. Allowing anybody to disrupt essential services also exposes the government’s weakness because disruption of essential services is prohibited and punishable.