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 Post subject: Drinking patterns among Lankans
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 3:49 pm 
Drinking patterns among Lankans

In 2002, Sri Lankan drinkers consumed 56.7 million, litres of malt alcohol (e.g., beer) 56.6 million litres of arrack, 7 million litres of toddy, and 3 million litres of foreign liquor (to the value of U.S. dollars 17 million) and this included one million litres of imported beer in addition to spirits.

by D. P. Atukorale
@ Island / 09Dec2006

Sri Lanka has a written history of over 2500 year’s and India had a great influence in the cultural outlook of Sri Lanka up to the 15th century. Since the 16th century with the advent of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British our outlook, habits and behaviour patterns especially in the urban areas like Colombo, Negombo and Galle have undergone drastic changes.

Toddy has been a popular alcoholic drink among Sri Lankans since the days of Sinhalese kings and has a low a alcohol content (less than 10 percent) and had been quite popular among our ancient warriors.

Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam discourage consumption of alcohol whereas Roman Catholic and other Christian religions don’t discourage consumption of alcohol and as far as I am aware alcohol is served freely during religious parties such as Christmas.

After Independence the Sri Lankan government requested the production of legal types of liquor such as arrack, beer and whisky and there had been a very significant increase in the revenue from excise tax (10.4 billion rupees in 1992 to 52.3 billion rupees in 2002). During the above period, the total production of alcohol has almost doubled. There has been a rapid increase in the production and consumption of alcohol during the last 15 years. Beer production has increased over five fold between 1992 and 2002 whereas hard liquor production has increased from 53.4 million litres to 59.6 million litres during 1992 — 2002. Consumption of illicit alcohol is estimated to be around 50 percent of the total alcohol consumption in the country.

In 1994 with the blessings of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by the president, there was an attempt to popularize beer drinking among Sri Lankans by reducing the price of beer with the sole motive of diverting hard liquor drinking to beer drinking. This attempt failed miserably as people who were used to hard liquor such as arrack, whisky and kassippu could not be persuaded to drink beer. What actually happened was that people including some women in urban areas who were not used to taking alcohol started drinking beer.

People who could not afford to drink hard liquor such as whisky, brandy, gin and arrack started to turn to local illicit brews like "kassippu" in which the alcohol content is very much higher than arrack. It is noteworthy that kassippu is cheaper than arrack. This may be one reason why kassippu is commonly served at wedding receptions in the rural areas.

In 2002, Sri Lankan drinkers consumed 56.7 million, litres of malt alcohol (e.g., beer) 56.6 million litres of arrack, 7 million litres of toddy, and 3 million litres of foreign liquor (to the value of U.S. dollars 17 million) and this included one million litres of imported beer in addition to spirits.


After the liberalization policy of the government in mid 1995, there were 1886 licenced liquor outlets in the from of restaurants, hotels, rest houses, wine shops, clubs, canteens, taverns, Chinese restaurants and sports clubs.

It is an open secret that the majority of politicians earned a significant sum of money by "selling" liquor permits to tavern owners. We are very grateful to the present government in their decision to stop issuing any new permits to the liquor traders.

Alcoholic beverages consumed on Sri Lanka include:

(a) Low alcohol beverages such as beer, wine and other socalled "energy drinks" with alcohol content of less than 10 per cent.

(b) Strong liquor or spirits such as arrack, whisky gin, brandy with an alcohol content of 35 to 40 per cent.

(c) illicit liquor such as kassippu with very high alcohol content (around, 50 per cent)

Arrack and beer are produced almost in equal quantities (about 57 million litres per year) and other types of alcohol are, produced in smaller quantities. Production of toddy (which is extracted by tapping flowers of coconut palmyrah and "kitul" which are popular in all parts of Sri Lanka) amounted to about 7 million litres is the year 2002.

Drinking patterns in Sri Lanka

Culturally drinking in Sri Lanka is mainly confined to males. Drinking among females is not common and is very rare in rural areas. Drinking light drinks such as wine and beer is not uncommon among urban females especially those in Colombo and other towns.

Sri Lankan husbands (at least a majority) generally don’t tolerate their wives drinking even beer at a party and wives do not approve their husbands getting drunk at a party. But drinking is somewhat tolerated for a man not for a woman out at a bar with friends or when the husband is having dinner with his wife and with friends at home. A number of wives especially in the urban areas tolerate their husbands having a few drinks at a party or at a wedding reception.

The majority of Sri Lankans especially the Buddhists and Christians (including Catholics) serve alcohol, especially whisky, brandy and arrack at wedding and homecoming parties and the majority of Sri Lankans believe that it is below their dignity to have a wedding reception without serving alcohol to the guests.. In wedding receptions in the rural areas arrack and kassippu (generally ‘kassippu) are served to the invitees.


Frequent drinking in Sri Lanka is found in up-country plantation areas, and in urban areas (especially Catholic and Christian areas to the North of Colombo, Gampaha and Puttalam). Alcohol drinking in Colombo is more common in the Westernized and English – educated communities and serving alcohol in households to friends and relatives is a common custom among them. Many females in the English speaking society are exposed to drinking compared to other parts of the country.

Drinking during religious and national festivals

It is common knowledge that in Sri Lanka, alcohol is consumed during Christmas, Sinhalese New year and other national festivals. Drinking among Muslims is low and appears to be under — reported and even some patients who have come to me smelling of alcohol -deny that they have ever consumed alcohol.

In some of the alms givings, "Pirith" ceremonies and "Bana" preaching ceremonies alcohol is served to the visitors in a "separate unofficial bar" without been seen by the Buddhist monks and this is more common in rich westernized Buddhist houses than rural Buddhist houses.

Farmers and daily paid workers

In rural areas as far as I am aware people don’t like to work in paddy fields unless kassippu in served to them in addition to the daily wages. Same is true of other daily paid workers in rural areas.

Drinking among doctors

It is common knowledge that a significant number of male doctors consume alcohol in moderation and in a majority of doctors’ parties (usually sponsored by pharmaceutical industry) expensive drinks are served. Some doctors’ wives consume wine at such parties. Alcohol dependence is very rare among Sri Lankan doctors unlike those in the West.

Alcohol related problems

Alcohol related diseases are on the rise and death rates following alcoholic cirrhosis and other diseases of the liver have increased from 38.5 to 125.2 from 1975 to 2002. Alcoholic cirrhosis is very high in heavy drinking areas such as upcountry Tamil plantation areas and North of Colombo (Gampaha and Puttalam districts).

Psychiatric diseases following consumption of alcohol has increased during recent years (e.g. 36.2 in 1990 to 58 in 1995). According to 2002 Department of Health statistics, -one out of four mental disorders in Sri Lanka are due to alcohol.

The rate of alcoholic poisoning has increased from 537 in 1985 to 652 in 1995. Motor accidents, a significant number of which are due to driving after excessive consumption of alcohol have increased during the period 1990 to 1993. Driving under the influence of alcohol has increased from 8.9 in 1990 to 20.7 in 1993 (more than 100 percent increase).

Alcohol addiction a major cause of broken homes

In some families especially in urban areas, alcohol dependence in found to be a major problem that leads to broken homes. Alcohol addicts are more frequently divorced or separated. A high degree of domestic violence both in urban and rural areas is linked to alcohol consumption.

Related Items:
:arrow: Drug addiction and Alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka
:arrow: Arrack - Story of a bottle of sweat!

 Post subject: Alcohol a sign of prestige strength and status for some
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 4:11 pm 
Alcohol a sign of prestige strength and status for some class of Sri Lankans

December 2006 11:36:12

Although the economic drain from consuming alcohol is severe, alcohol users from the slum communities say they drink to enjoy.

December 08, 2006 (LBO) – A quarter of Sri Lankans who live below the poverty line consider the use of alcohol as a status symbol and an integral part of life, according to a recent medical study.

According to a study carried out by Dr. Diyanath Samarasinghe of the Colombo University, around 25 percent out of 19.5 million population earn less than a dollar a day, but they consume alcohol because it's a sign of strength, status and almost heroic.

The study also says some people who earn less than 500 rupees per week spend more than 100 rupees per day on alcohol which exceeds their reported income.

Out of the 61 respondents who are alcoholics chosen from 11 districts of the country, 80 percent said drunkenness leads to fights and clashes.

Less than ten percent of these respondents consumed liquor daily.

Majority of slum dwellers say consuming alcohol helps them get rid of exhaustion after a day's work.

Although the economic drain from consuming alcohol is severe, alcohol users from the slum communities say they drink to enjoy.

Those living below the poverty line, opt for cheaper illicit hooch known as 'kasippu', arrack, as well as illicit drugs, the study shows.

The illicit liquor flourishes, despite frequent raids by the Excise Department to curb consumption.

In 2005, department officials made 45,993 detections, collecting 91.22 million rupees in fines from illicit liquor and over one million rupees in fines from drugs.

This year, more than 43,500 unauthorized liquor sales points have been raided during the past 10 months, earning 90 million in fines.

Excise department statistics show rapid increases in the consumption of alcohol over the years, netting in handsome gains to the government coffers.

For instance, in 2004, the excise revenue rose to 13.54 billion rupees, from 5.73 billion rupees in 1999.

Last year, income from excise tax was 16.1 billion and for the first ten months of this year, the department has collected around 17 billion rupees so far.

For the first ten months to October, locals have consumed over 37 million litres of hard liquor and 39 million litres of soft liquor, according to Excise Department figures. However, sales of hard liquor usually exceeds soft alcohols like beer, due to stiffer taxes on the latter.

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