Change should complement the law in efforts to stampout illicit liquor

04Oct 2019
Editor
The Guardian
Change should complement the law in efforts to stampout illicit liquor

health sector activists and a portion of the media have been marking World No Alcohol Day, celebrated each October 2 since 2008, with a call to the government to be more proactive in combating the drinking of harmful local brews.

It is abundantly clear that the government is aware of this problem and over the past year in particular it showed intense resoluteness in putting out of circulation harmful strong liquor in tiny packets for years sold publicly all over.

The appeal comes from the Tanzania Public Health Association (TPHA), the local hosts to the global activist event, which has quoted World Health Organisation figures as showing that around three million people die annually from consumption of illicit liquors.

The association says three-quarters of those deaths are of male individuals, but it has not been said how many come from East Africa as a whole and Tanzania in particular. Still it is not easy to collect such data as deaths related to alcohol consumption can come in many forms, where organ failure is the most prevalent symptom but on no account the sole indication.

Looking up data about illicit liquors in the worldwide web, there is greater reference or recognition of the place which spirits occupy in alcohol-related deaths, as many harmful types of liquor are in actual fact legal.

That is the point of departure of how complicated it is for the government to make an explicit effort in that direction as it isn’t due to the private initiative of ‘liquorpreneurs’ that illicit drinks exist but rather more owing to the demand.

There are times when demand for quick intoxication by purchasing less such liquor is so high that dangerous innovation like lacing a drink with methanol comes up. This is exactly how 172 people died in north east India in February 2019.

As is evident even from the Dar es Salaam city scene, those wishing for strong intoxicants and those out to meet that demand to make a living have found ways to go around the ban on liquor sold in plastic sachets.

For one thing, the stated reason for abolishing the sale of liquor in sachets was more the bags than the liquors, which explains why the liquors are now offered in tiny cups with the volume-dispensing kits in place.

The urge for strong liquors in part arises from liquor dependency and low incomes, where other facets of healthcare like diet and medication fail to tame the danger from hard spirits, or illicit liquors in our case.

There is no evidence that governments around the world have had resounding success in combating this problem even in countries where religion forbids the consumption of alcohol.

There are times when the urge for intoxication shifts to the use of drugs when hard liquor is nowhere to be seen, and thus eventually the problem remains the same – or actually worsens.

Where a person has an occupation and must perform, the urge for intoxication correspondingly declines. However, where collective frustration prevails, it is channelled into bizarre forms of happiness. All these facts must be considered in seeking a workable and constructive way forward.

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