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No alcohol advertising even for CSR

2 years ago

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By The Sunday Morning Business Desk The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) has ruled out the possibility of allowing alcohol manufacturers to conduct awareness campaigns even for corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, citing the regulations against alcohol advertising. NATA Chairman Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa told The Sunday Morning Business that allowing liquor manufacturers to undertake CSR and and extended producer responsibility (EPR) projects would indirectly pave the way for manufacturers to market and promote their products. The decision comes following a letter sent to the NATA Chairman on 30 August by Excise Commissioner General A. Bodaragama, seeking NATA’s opinion on the possibility of allowing liquor manufacturers to engage in CSR and EPR projects to eliminate environmental pollution caused by the disposal of 180 ml empty liquor bottles. According to Rajapaksa, in response to the letter, he had informed the Department of Excise that NATA is unable to give permission to implement such projects as it would be in “complete violation” of the provisions of the NATA Act. “With regard to liquor manufacturers on implementing CSR and EPR projects, the NATA Act clearly states that no person shall use a brand name or trademark of, or any symbol associated with, an alcohol product whether directly or indirectly in connection with the promotion of any educational, cultural, social, or sporting organisation, activity, or event. And no person can conduct a social activity which includes or acknowledges any financial or other assistance has been given by, or on behalf of, the manufacturer, importer, or distributor of such alcohol product towards such organisation, activity, or event,” Rajapaksa noted. In response to an article published by us on 13 September, under the title “Alcohol advertising ban to be relaxed?”, he rejected of receiving a collective request from alcohol manufacturers to relax the provision of the NATA Act and added that the only letter NATA received on this matter was the aforementioned letter from the Excise Commissioner General. On 27 August, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera vowed to ban 180 ml liquor bottles, considering the damage caused from the improper disposal of these bottles as they are sold in large numbers. Since liquor manufacturers expressed their concerns about the proposed ban, authorities requested the manufacturers to come up with alternative proposals. One of the proposals manufacturers suggested the Department of Excise was to permit them to display posters/banners raising awareness amongst their consumers on how to recycle quarter arrack bottles after consumption. This request was also necessitated by the option given to the industry by the authorities to charge Rs. 50 as a refundable deposit for every quarter bottle purchased. This Rs. 50 would be returned to the consumer when the empty bottle is returned to the seller. Nevertheless, sources informed us that alcohol manufacturers were not in favour of this option, as quarter bottles are bought almost entirely by daily drinkers and an increase of Rs. 50 would put the quarter bottle beyond consumers’ reach. It is learnt that due to these additional measures, alcohol manufacturers might incur about Rs. 15 million as additional costs. The leading alcohol manufacturer alone sold 55-65 million quarter bottles last year.