Alcohol consumption in St. Lucia has seen another slight increase and if not addressed soon, can become a serious social problem, according to Director of the Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat Cyprian Yarde.
Yarde’s statement was made in reference to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report on its 15-year global alcohol consumption survey.
The WHO report ranked St. Lucia ninth for the highest per-capita yearly consumption. According to the report, St. Lucia’s yearly pure-alcohol consumption is 11.6 litres per capita and is among the highest in the world. It is not clear as to whether St. Lucia’s consumption is purely based on the local population because there a hundreds of foreigners who indulge in alcohol drinking here.
Yarde told SNO that he is not concerned about St Lucia’s ranking because it is merely a statistic and people can make different inferences from statistics.
“However what we are looking at is on the basis of per-capita consumption… we are saying these levels that we are seeing now for our country is definitely too high and that is unacceptable,” he asserted.
He said over the last decade there has been a drop of consumption of pure spirits and a slight increase of consumption of wine, but a higher increase of beer consumption.
“So when we put all together then we will see that there is a small increase in total volume of alcohol consumed,” he said.
Yarde argued that this behaviour can be modified. However, because it is a choice factor there is very little that can be done.
“We at the secretariat want people to review their own particular circumstance and determine what amount of alcohol they should consume, even before it begins to have a negative health impact,” the director advised.
Research done by the secretariat indicates that one in five persons here have used some form of substance in St. Lucia.
“Because there is no positive benefit of substance to anyone except if it is perspective, then there is really no need for it. We see the effect of substance abuse on people who have been there before. They never returned to functioning 100 per cent,” he added.
In recognising the health impact, the social consequences, lost opportunities for education, lost of productivity in the workplace and by extension the country, Yarde said that something needs to be done urgently to address this issue before it gets out of control.
“We need to urgently try to reverse this and this is what the secretariat is working towards,” he noted.
Asked to comment on the proposal made by the Trade Union Federation (TUF) to implement a 10 per cent tax on alcohol and tobacco products, Yarde said government have always been examining the impact this could have on these commodities. He explained that the theory of the most expensive a good becomes, the less it is be sold, in some cases doesn’t last long.
“We need to implement measures that would encourage people to reduce the quantities they use or quit altogether. So taxation on its own will not do, but of course it is a significant component of any programme that is going to be directed at reduction in consumption of alcohol,” he advised.