Need policy on alcohol consumption: Rights group

IMFLs and country liquor were more preferred than low-alcohol beverages like beer and wines.
Image used for illustrative purposes only. (File Photo | AP)
Image used for illustrative purposes only. (File Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI: As India does not have a central policy to reduce alcohol consumption and is among the few countries which do not have guidelines on safe consumption, there is an urgent need for the government to recognise this issue and introduce cost-effective actions, including increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages, said a consumer rights group.

Urging the government to consider a complete ban on the sale of alcohol in all forms of ultra-small packs or miniatures, sold in tetra, plastic or glass bottles, below a certain quantity, Consumer Voice said what is worrying is that consumption has increased among the age group of 15-30 years.Quoting the World Health Organization (WHO), Ashim Sanyal, the chief executive officer of the organisation, said that between 2005 and 2016, India’s per capita consumption of pure alcohol almost doubled from 2.4 litres to 5.7 litres.Most of this consumption was from beverages with high alcohol-by-volume content or hard liquor such as whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, IMFLs and country liquor, he added.

IMFLs and country liquor were more preferred than low-alcohol beverages like beer and wines. As of 2017, the total market share of hard liquor in India stood at a massive 84 per cent, he said. The study recommended that raising the price of the cheapest forms of alcohol by setting a minimum unit price will significantly impact risky drinking.

India’s average per capita consumption of hard liquor was the highest in the world at 13.5 litres of pure alcohol compared to just 1.1 litres of pure alcohol from beer from 2010-2016. This report was commissioned by Consumer Voice and authored by Gateway Consulting, a public policy and communications firm.Sanyal said that a primary reasons for the high consumption of beverages with high alcohol content is that they are more affordable as compared to low alcohol content beverages like beer and wine.

Between 2005 and 2016, while the average per capita consumption levels dropped across most countries, including the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Sweden, per capita consumption in India almost doubled from 2.4 litres to 5.7 litres of pure alcohol during the same period. The report said that India should commit to WHO’s Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-30, which has set a target to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by 20 per cent by 2030.

“With this background, it is imperative that the government considers broader social aspects to include higher healthcare and social care costs while making alcohol policies. We aim to trigger a debate and engage stakeholders to moderate alcohol consumption through policy measures and awareness campaigns,” said Tushar Gandhi, CEO of Gateway Consulting.

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