Growing up in the village, we could only go to the shopping centre on errands for our parents. I observed that tea joints, commonly referred to as “hotels”, outnumbered bars. The few bars were painted yellow, the advertisement colour of a popular beer brand, with the words “Baada ya Kazi (after work”.
Bars opened for revellers from 4pm and religiously closed by 11pm. It was rare to see young men under 25 years coming out of bars. Those were the days of responsible drinking. Not anymore.
Alcoholism has become a big burden to society. An entire generation has gone to waste due to alcoholism. Cases are rampant of young men ravaged by alcohol abuse who cannot raise or sustain families. Many of them depend on their aged parents for sustenance. They flock to the drinking dens early in the morning, sometimes without money to spend but wait for others to share their alcohol with them.
“Baada ya Kazi” has become “badala ya kazi (instead of work)”. Alcohol abuse has also contributed to vices like stealing to sustain drinking. Others sell their family’s household items. Many others have suffered life-long health complications.
One of the effective enablers of alcoholism is affordability. The introduction of “safe and affordable” beers and spirits to cater for low-income groups created a pool of irresponsible drinkers.
Prior to their introduction, the manufacturers should have run campaigns to educate their target market on the perils of irresponsible drinking. In the recent past, there have been media reports that a leading beer manufacturer intends to introduce light beers to go with meals, such that one can take alcohol after lunch and resume work.
However, let us tread with caution lest we create another pool of drinkers who may choose to continue drinking rather than resume work after lunchtime.
To tame alcoholism among the youth and the low-income groups, the government should impose a levy on the “safe and affordable” alcoholic drinks to cater for the establishment and running of rehabilitation centres. Such a fee should be collected in the same way as the catering levy.
George Wanyoro, Nairobi
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Most likely, bar owners and alcoholic drinks producers have unions or groups to advance and defend their interests.
But who is there for the hundreds of wives, husbands, parents and children of victims who have become zombies courtesy of these drinks? And does any bar owner come out to compensate or at least openly condemn spiking of drinks by marauding thugs? They are just a selfish lot!
Joe Mungai, Washington State, USA