The Jakarta Post
A controversial bill on alcohol prohibition poses a serious threat to public health and safety as it will lead to rising consumption of illegal alcohol, like the oplosan (bootleg liquor) that recently killed the people who drank it, according to a study revealed on Friday.
The alcohol prohibition initiative did not reflect care in the creation of public policy, according to the study entitled "Health and Social Cost of Alcohol Prohibition: The Potential Risk of Rising Counterfeit Alcohol", which had been conducted by a non-profit think tank called the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS).
The rise of bootleg alcohol, which caused hundreds of deaths and injuries across the country, should be highlighted as an impact of alcohol trade barriers, excessive taxes and several local prohibitions, said CIPS researcher Rofi Uddarojat.
The World Health Organization estimated that illegal alcohol consumption in Indonesia is five times greater than legal alcohol consumption.
The House of Representatives (DPR) had included an alcohol prohibition bill among 40 bills for the 2016 National Legislation Program (prolegnas), their top priorities for endorsement this year.
"If the DPR passes the bill on alcohol prohibition, producers and consumers will be forced to go underground. A ban will also strengthen organized crime syndicates producing deadly counterfeit alcohol,” Rofi said in a press statement to thejakartapost.com on Friday.
Therefore, the CIPS strongly urged the DPR to reject the bill as it was feared approval could result in dangerous risks and threats to public health and a rise in criminal activity.
Those mostly at risk of death and injury from alcohol poisoning are low-income consumers who cannot afford legal alcoholic drinks. At least 215 people had died and 144 injured by drinking oplosan from 2013 to March 2016, data compiled by the CIPS said.
In a recent case, four people died in Cirebon, West Java on Wednesday after consuming oplosan. The four people were among 14 people who drank a concoction of local wine mixed with gasoline and diesel fuel. Moreover, 26 people also died from drinking oplosan in Yogyakarta in February.
That showed cases like this would probably happen if alcohol sales and consumption were banned, according to the study.
Jakarta Police recorded a 58 percent increase on the amount of confiscated illegal alcohol between 2014 to 2015, according to the data gathered in the study.
The increase coincided during the ban of beer sales in small retail shops and a 150 percent rise of import taxes on alcoholic beverages implemented last year.
The study suggested government should concentrate instead on shifting people from drinking dangerous alcohol to safer legal alcohol products by having regulated alcohol more accessible at cheaper prices and more available in shops, Rofi said.
An alcohol ban should not have been a government priority as alcohol consumption in Indonesia is low compared to that in other countries, such as Vietnam or Malaysia, the CIPS said.
Indonesians consumed 0.1 liters of legal alcohol per capita, lower than the illegal alcohol consumption of 0.5 liters per capita. (rin)
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