Not an ordinary commodity

Not an ordinary commodity

Alcohol consumption

According to professor S K Khandelwal, AIIMS, alcohol is one of the most desirable and glamorous commodities. It is one of the earliest synthesised products in the history of human civilisation and has also been a part of many cultures.

We also see how Bollywood has been “glamorising” the same in different ways. From Kangana Ranaut in Queen to Dharmendra’s suicide attempt scene in Sholay and Amitabh Bachchan’s talking to the mirror scene in Amar Akbar Anthony, there have been numerous episodes in movies which show alcohol consumption in not a dark light.

During a recent discussion on ‘Alcohol, No Ordinary Commodity’, experts spoke about the health issues caused by the intake of alcohol, the myths that revolve around it and why it is difficult to regulate its sale in the state.

Rakesh Lal, professor, National Drugs Dependence Treatment Centre, said, “Alcohol is something which involves a lot of stakeholders. It is either nobody’s baby or it is everyone’s baby.”

Not only is alcohol a source of revenue for the government, it also a “cultural anthropologist”, where it is a part of movies, poetry, and even WhatsApp messages.

Speaking of its origins, Dr Lal added, “It is not just grapes, but wheat, barley, rice, corn, millets and almost everything around us can be used for making alcohol. The beauty of it is that one will have many reasons for justifying its consumption.”

We all have heard that ‘two pegs’ of alcohol is good for health. So is it really true?
“The only group of people for whom this saying applies is British (white) women, above the age of 55,” clarified Dr Rajiv Khosla, senior consultant gastroenterologist, Holy Family Hospital; Max Hospital, Saket and Medanta Medcity.

“And the marginal benefits of this amount disappear if these women consume more than five drinks in a week. Otherwise, there is no evidence of anyone benefitting from alcohol,” he added.

Many states in India have banned the sale of liquor like Gujarat, Nagaland and the very recent Bihar. However, easy availability of alcohol in these states is also reported by many.

“As a subject of the state, legislating on alcohol is easy. But imposing it is difficult. People always find a way around them. For a commodity which is so popular and high in demand, it is foolish to think that one can get rid of it through law-enforcement,” Tripti Tandon, deputy director, Lawyers Collective, told Metrolife.

Speaking of Delhi, she further points out how “user” is not the subject matter of law when it comes to alcohol. She exemplifies saying anyone below the age of 25 is not allowed to buy alcohol, but its consumption has not been questioned. 

“I think the regulations have to be re-oriented. Instead of aiming to eliminate the
use of alcohol, laws must be oriented to the goal of reducing the harms arising out of excessive alcohol use,” she said.

“For instance, selling alcohol to somebody who is inebriated can be discouraged. Else, one can impose a higher price for very successive drink that one orders at a bar. It would be better if at a bar, a glass of wine is cheaper than a bottle. But here a pure business model is applied and buying a bottle (and thus drinking more) is more economical for the user,” she added.