India Fast Facts

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

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

As India’s per capita consumption of 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.

No safe limit of alcohol consumption for health, shows WHO analysis

Call for excise duty tweak to curb drinking of hard liquor

Call for excise duty tweak to curb drinking of hard liquor

An outfit called Consumer Voice, citing concerns about India’s high per-capita alcohol consumption, also urged a ban on ultra-small liquor bottles and a minimum unit price for alcohol to raise the cost of the least expensive alcoholic beverages
A consumer outfit on Thursday urged the Centre and states to revise excise policies to help curb alcohol consumption, saying current policies encourage intoxication through hard liquor such as rum, whiskey or vodka.

The outfit called Consumer Voice, citing concerns about India’s high per-capita alcohol consumption, also urged a ban on ultra-small liquor bottles and a minimum unit price for alcohol to raise the cost of the least expensive alcoholic beverages. It has asked governments to consult health departments to formulate alcohol control policies that would seek to moderate and reduce per capita consumption “instead of extreme steps like prohibition”.

High alcohol beverages such as whiskey currently attract the lowest duties which makes hard liquor, especially Indian-made foreign liquor, more affordable than low alcohol beverages such as beer or wine, Consumer Voice said. This duty structure, it said, encourages consumption of high alcohol beverages.

“India does not have a central-level policy to reduce alcohol consumption,” said Ashim Sanyal, the chief executive officer at Consumer Voice, a group of academics and volunteers campaigning for consumer rights through improvements in policies and rules.

The consumer group, citing a 2018 World Health Organisation report, said the per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages in India had more than doubled from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016.

After China, India is the second largest consumer of hard liquor like rum, whiskey, or vodka. India’s per capita consumption of hard liquor was 13.5 litres, the highest in the world, compared to 6.6 litres in Brazil, 4.8 litres in the US, or 3.2 litres in Germany. However, India’s per capita alcohol from beer was 1.1 litres, compared with 6.4 litres in the US or 5.3 litres in Australia.

Consumer Voice has used pricing data from 2021 and 2022 to cite examples of how liquor prices in several states increase the affordability of hard liquor and encourage its consumption by making possible higher intoxication levels at the same or lower price.

In Karnataka, the lowest priced Indian whiskey was available for Rs 56 for 180ml, while the lowest priced beer cost Rs 50 for a 330ml pint.

The consumer group has credited four states — Bengal, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — for reducing taxes on beer to reduce prices and moderate the intake of high alcohol beverages.

Govt yet to take note of booze intake doubling in India

Govt yet to take note of booze intake doubling in India

Even as average per capita consumption of alcohol has more than doubled from 2.4 litres to 5.7 litres between 2005 to 2016 in country, the Government is yet to wake up from its slumber to take note of this growing menace and take measures to regulate its intake at an individual level.

A report ‘Policy measures to reduce per capita consumption of alcohol in India’ released on Thursday flags the menace as it enlists several recommendations including policy measures aimed at disincentivizing consumption of high alcoholic beverages; and, creating consumer awareness to regulate intake at an individual level.

It is a known fact that excess of consumption of alcohol is not good for health and there is a need to regulate its consumption by creating awareness among people about its ill-impact, Ashim Sanyal, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer VOICE told reporters at a press conference held here to share details of the report prepared in collaboration with Gateway Consultancy.

It comes days after WHO warned that there is no ‘safe limit’ to alcohol consumption, and even a small amount may increase the risk of cancer and other NCDs. “Between 2005 and 2016, India’s per capita consumption of pure alcohol almost doubled from 2.4 liters to 5.7 liters.

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.

Sharing more details of study Sanyal said, “With alcohol consumption in India seeing its highest growth in 15-30 age group, we are concerned about excess per capita consumption of alcohol and its consequences.

India does not have a central level policy to reduce consumption and is among the few countries which does not have guidelines on safe consumption.”

Tushar Gandhi, Chief Executive Officer of Gateway Consulting added: “The report highlights the increasing per capita consumption of pure alcohol in India and highlights that high alcoholic beverages are most cheaply available and are consumed most. But, on the other hand, globally consumers are moving towards low alcoholic beverages.

Drinking patterns indicate that people drink to ‘get intoxicated’ and engage in excessive and binge drinking, added Hemant Uapadhyay, from Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education.

Heavy Episodic Drinking, which is defined as consumption of 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the last 30 days, declined in a total of 164 countries and remained unchanged in nine countries. However, India is amongst the few countries across the world where heavy episodic drinking has increased, he added.

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. The report aims to trigger a debate and engage stakeholders with an objective to moderate alcohol consumption through policy measures and awareness campaigns.