The first ever Atlas on Alcohol
was released by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare
A Ramadoss last week. It shows 21% of adult males imbibing
alcohol, while the average age of initiation has come down
to 19 years.
The Manual was prepared by the Indian Alcohol
Policy Alliances (IAPA), a national organisation affiliated
to Global Alcohol Policy Alliances (GAPA) and supported
by FORUT, Norway.
Work on the atlas has been on for the
last three years by IAPA along with Nimhans, Bangalore,
World Health Organisation, members of Commonwealth Medical
Association and Indian Medical Association.
The atlas covers multi dimensional aspects
of alcohol ranging from production to response. It focuses
on issues related to production, distribution, availability
and sale, consumption patterns, health consequences, socioeconomic
impact and response of the country towards control and prevention
Study by Nimhans
The average age of initiation has been
reduced from 28 years during the 1980s to 19 years in the
recent times. The rising income level of youngsters is one
of the major reasons for increasing consumption of alcohol,
experts observed during the release of the Alcohol Atlas.
In the next 5-7 years the age is expected
to come down to 15 years
The National Survey shows that among male
adults, about 21% are current drinkers and about 17% are
regular users of alcohol.
The Atlas also indicates greater use by
women and the social acceptance. About 10% of adult females
Among those seeking treatment about 44%
were alcohol users.
National Family health Survey 2007
The most recent data on alcohol use was
published in September, 2007 by the National Family Health
Survey, based on the Data collected in 2005-06.
It showed that about 32% were current users
of alcohol and between 4 and 13% were daily users. The proportion
of users among rural (32%) and urban population (31%) are
Rural families spend as much as 24% of
their income, while urban population spends 32%, on alcohol.
India is one of the largest alcoholic beverage
industries in the world. We are the dominant producer of
alcohol in the South East Asia region, producing about 4
million tonnes of alcohol (65%) and contribute to about
7% of the total alcohol beverage imports into the region.
Drinking Pattern of States
Kerala accounts for the country's highest
consumption of alcohol followed by Maharashtra and Punjab.
The prevalence of alcohol use in men has
been highest in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Sikkim.
Jammu and Kashmir records the lowest alcohol
consumption. Experts attribute this fact to religious factors.
Prevalence of alcohol has also been seen
in the prohibited state of Gujarat.
A total of 62.5 million people are believed
to be regular drinkers of alcohol in India.
Minister and the Media
Releasing the manual Dr. Ramadoss asked
the media to create awareness about the adverse social,
economic and medical effects of alcohol abuse among the
masses. 'The media can play a very effective role in tackling
this problem. Today the reach of media has multiplied manifold
and has a reach in almost every household. Generation of
awareness about the bad social, economic and medical effects
of alcohol abuse among the masses should be an important
agenda of the media,' he said.
'Rural as well as urban youth is taking
to alcohol on a very large scale and the trend is on the
rise. This will cause societal tension and many kinds of
distortions in the years to come. Therefore, we have to
take effective steps now and here,' he added.
Surrogate advertising of alcoholic
'Advertising of alcoholic beverages is
prohibited but we see that the manufacturers take the help
of surrogate advertisements to advertise such products,
said the Honourable Minister.
This is one area where the media can play
a very crucial role through some kind of self-regulatory
mechanism. Today when young persons see the advertisements
of the different brands in surrogate ads and the attendant
glamorous lifestyles, they are misled and they get an impression
that the ultimate symbol of having arrived is to consume
alcohol or smoke cigarettes.'
It is interesting to note in the government's
latest brush with the judiciary, the Supreme Court has rejected
a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) pleading that the Royal
Challengers, name of the cricket team owned by the beer
and spirit Barron Vijay Mallya, amounted to surrogate advertising
and should not be allowed.
Article 47 of the Constitution
'Article 47 of the Constitution, one of
the Directive Principles of the State Policy, makes it a
duty of the State to discourage the consumption of alcohol.
It reads, "The State shall endeavour to bring about
prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose
of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious
Therefore, it becomes our foremost duty
to see to it that the problem of alcoholism does not disrupt
the social fabric of our country,' said the Minister.
IAPA chairperson Dr Arul Rhaj said, "Alcohol
is a drug. Efforts are on to bring it to be sold only through
The minister announced that the government
will soon come up with a National Alcohol Policy even though
prohibition is a state subject. Barring four states - Gujarat,
Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Mizoram, no other state has
a policy on alcohol.
India will also push for a World No Alcohol
Day on October 2, the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi, at the
World Health Assembly to be held later this month, the earlier
attempts having failed.
The minister has appealed to the film
industry to desist from showing visual shots of alcohol
being consumed on screen, but has been widely criticised
by the media and the industry. The inept handling of the
existing medical care, resulting in deaths and suffering
should be the focus of his ministry's attention, they feel.
Sermonising his personal prejudices and dislikes cannot
be thrust on them unless a law is passed, which is unlikely
at this stage.
There appear to be some anomalies and
ambiguities in the reported findings- in the statistics
of last year's health survey and the current study by Nimhans.
We shall study in details and report back. For now, there
is some documentation to go by, for those predicting and
planning for the wine market -editor