My despair arose in the National Museum of Singapore where I learnt about Dr Lim Boon Keng. In 1896 Dr Keng criticised the squalid conditions that many migrant workers lived in, seeing it as the source of their many ills. One of the four conditions that he specifically listed was the prolific consumption of — and addiction to — opium. The problem with addressing the issue, however, was the government at the time derived about 50% of its revenues from the trade of opium; banning it was impossible.
Money and power are intertwined. The government at the time (the few) clearly needed opium irrespective of the health consequences to the people (the many). The needs of the few out-trumped those of the many, the consequence being ill-health.