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Consumer body seeks curbs as India's per capital alcohol intake doubles

India’s average per capita consumption of hard liquor is the highest in the world at 13.5 liters of pure alcohol in comparison to just 1.1 liters of pure alcohol from beer
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 09 February 2023, 17:44 IST
Last Updated : 09 February 2023, 17:44 IST
Last Updated : 09 February 2023, 17:44 IST
Last Updated : 09 February 2023, 17:44 IST

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As India’s per capita consumption of alcohol doubles, a consumers’ outfit on Thursday urged the state governments to correct their taxation policies to discourage the intake of “hard liquor” like whiskey, rum, vodka and gin while waving red flags on the growing tendency of binge drinking among youngsters and adverse social and health consequences of such a habit.

Between 2005 and 2016, India’s per capita consumption of pure alcohol shot up from 2.4 litres to 5.7 litres with a sharp rise in demand for whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, India-made foreign liquor and country liquor, as against soft liquor like beer and wine.

"Rather than looking at the alcohol sector from the point of revenue generation, the government should direct its duty structure to take into consideration broader social aspects that include higher healthcare and social care costs, crime, loss of life, accidents, and loss of employment which are directly linked to high per capita intake of alcohol,” Consumer Voice, a non-governmental organisation, said in a report.

India’s average per capita consumption of hard liquor is the highest in the world at 13.5 litres of pure alcohol in comparison to just 1.1 litres of pure alcohol from beer.

In contrast, the global average per capita consumption of beer is around 6 litres of pure alcohol, followed by hard liquor (4.3 litres), wine (2.3) and others (1.8). In most countries, beer consumption is higher than hard liquor.

India is one of the 16 countries where heavy episodic drinking has risen in recent years whereas it declined in 164 nations and remained unchanged in nine. An analysis of Indians’ drinking patterns indicate that people drink to ‘get intoxicated’, rather than use it for socializing or recreation.

Heavy drinkers generally consume high-alcoholic beverages and one of the primary reasons for enhanced consumption of beverages with high alcohol content is that they are more affordable as compared to low-alcohol content beverages like beer and wine.

“State governments see the alcoholic beverage industry as a cash cow and the mandate of alcohol control is handled by the state excise departments. There is an urgent need to involve the health departments to moderate consumption,” said Ashim Sanyal, chief executive officer, Consumer Voice.

The report commissioned by Consumer Voice and prepared by a private firm shows when the taxation structure is calculated across beer, hard liquor and wine, it becomes evident that low alcoholic beverages attract the highest duty per millilitre of alcohol.

“This results in the MRP (maximum retail price) of a bottle of beer being at par or higher compared to a 180 ml bottle of beverages with high alcohol content like IMFL. This anomaly steers consumers towards the consumption of high alcoholic beverages to get higher levels of intoxication at the same or lower price,” the report notes, urging the government to rethink on the policies.

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Published 09 February 2023, 17:44 IST

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