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Police to investigate liquor "blackouts"

Locally-made liquor is the subject of a Police investigation after consumers complained they experienced "blackouts" after drinking small amounts of certain alcoholic drink varieties. 

The Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, declined to name which company was the subject of the complaints and Police investigation but said the matter was of "grave concern". 

“There are too many complaints about locally-made liquor [and incidents where] members of the public are experiencing blackouts. We are looking into this serious matter,” he said. 

Fuiavaili’ili said alcohol-related crime is increasing across the country and Police would be investigating complaints thoroughly. 

“This is dangerous: people experiencing blackouts when they consumed a small amount of liquor,” he said.  

The Samoa Observer contacted the Chairman of the Liquor Board, Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, for comment but did not receive a response.

According to American Addiction Centre, an alcohol-related blackout is distinct from passing out. It involves the loss of memory without any accompanying loss of consciousness and is characterised by the impairment of memory but not other elements of brain function. 

The most common cause of a blackout is a sudden rise in blood alcohol level. 

“When a person passes out, they lose consciousness [and] are in a state similar to being asleep, although they are not likely to respond to stimuli like being spoken to or touched," the organisation's website states. 

"When a person blacks out, they may continue to make decisions, hold conversations, and even continue to drink. They appear to be conscious, but they will not remember what happened".

Last year the Samoa Government increased the excise tax upon liquor to 100 per cent which led to some businesses ceasing production. 

At the time, Minister Tialavea explained the move as part of the Government's response to the increasing incidence of alcohol-related crime. 

But in August of this year the Government moved decrease the tax on locally-made liquor; the decision to impose high liquor taxes had led to fewer sales and less tax revenue overall. 

“The Government lost revenue because they increased taxes, thinking it would automatically generate more money, but they were wrong as it was the other way around,” the Minister said at the time of the policy debate. 

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