Sunday, October 7, 2018

China and India had the biggest fatality tolls from alcohol in 2016... Global status report on alcohol 18

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Healthy India Alliance urge for a unified Minimum Limit Drinking Age across the country as 25 years

 Esteemed Sir,

Greetings from the Healthy India Alliance!

The Healthy India Alliance is a coalition of 13 Indian Multi-disciplinary Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), working collaboratively to strengthen CSO capacity and engagement for Non Communicable Disease (NCD) prevention and control in the country.

At the outset, we wish to congratulate the Government of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, for maintaining a strong stand on keeping the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) at 25years in Delhi. We are writing to you in reference to the Public Interest Litigation filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for quashing of section 23 of Delhi Excise Act, 2009 which prescribes 25 years as MLDA in the NCT of Delhi. In support of this argument, the petition also mentions that NO RATIONALE basis for section 23 of Delhi Excise Act, 2009 which prescribes 25 years as theMLDA in the NCT of Delhi, which can be supported and justified by the evidence presented below.

Healthy India Alliance is committed to support the Government of NCT of Delhi to raise strong arguments against lowering the MLDA while making efforts for a unified age of 25 years across the Nation, while also ensuring stricter implementation and penalties for violation.

In India, NCDs are responsible for 6.4 million deaths every year, which is 62% of all deaths and alcohol use is one of the key preventable risk factors contributing to NCDs. Consumption of alcoholic beverages has become a major public health concern in India and is a major contributor to death and disability. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) Report, alcohol control is a best buy and presents an excellent case for a Return on Investment (RoI), i.e. for every $1 invested on alcohol control a return of $9.13 is expected.
A number of studies have shown that the adolescent brain is still developing until the age of 25 years. During this period, they are under social pressures to drink. At times, they try tocope with anxiety and depression with alcohol and if they're in an environment where the MLDA is less, they're not under the social stigma against getting drunk. Evidence suggests that during young adulthood, especially the college years between the ages of 18 and 25, is an important period in life during which key decisions in educational, occupational, and social realms are made that can have lifelong ramifications. Alcohol use during this period negatively affects two important regions of the brain Hippocampus (affecting memory and learning) and Prefrontal lobe (affecting planning, judgment, decision making, impulse control and language). Evidence shows that the more teenagers delay their alcohol drinking, the less likely they are to become regular consumers as an adult and can avoid alcohol-related problems later in life.
Studies also suggest that heavy drinking during adolescence and young adulthood is associated with poorer Neuro-cognitive functioning during the young adult years and particularly with impairment of attention and Visio-spatial skills. Brain imaging and studies of event-related potentials have demonstrated that heavy alcohol consumption during adolescence and young adulthood also can lead to subtle but significant abnormalities in brain structure and function.The brain continues to develop throughout adolescence and into young adulthood, and insults to the brain during this period therefore could have an impact on long-term brain function.  
We, the members of the Healthy India Alliance urge for a unified MLDA across the country as 25 years in contrast to the existing varying (18-25 years) sub-national MLDAs.
Therefore, the Government of NCT of Delhi’s decision to maintain the existing MLDA at 25 years is critically needed backed up by scientific evidence.Moreover, stricter enforcement of law that imposes firm penalties for violation of MLDA and other alcohol control measures, will further its effectiveness and success. This will also project Delhi as an ideal State and a best practice model for other states to follow.
Thanking you,

With best regards,

Member Organisations of the Healthy India Alliance
Nada India Foundation is a co-signature as Healthy India Alliance board member of this appeal to Delhi Government  
To June 4, 2018
Shri AmjadTak
Commisioner (Excise,Entertainment & Luxury Tax)
Excice, Entertainment and Luxury Tax Department
Government of NCT of Delhi

With a copy to: 
Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Government of NCT of Delhi
Shri ShriSatyendar Jain, Hon' ble Minister of Health, Government of NCT of Delhi

Nada India Foundation  is governing board member of Healthy India Alliance.

Mental health services are missing in Kerala ? People are turning to liquor....

As Kerala reels under floods, a new report has emerged that Keralites consumed liquor worth over Rs 500 crore in around 10-day period since rain started pouring in the state and caused massive destruction.

According to ibtimes report,  the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) released data stating that the total sale of liquor and beer stood at Rs 516 crore within the time period starting from Independence day August 15) to Onam (August 26).

Unattended grief and loss makes a person vulnerable and may turn him or her to self medication. Use of alcohol or other substance increase after disaster like flood ,earthquake etc. in order to deal with emotional pain. It is important to understand that alcohol intensify emotional experience  negatively and delay grief process. Nada India urges government and civil society to provide barrier free mental health services as other relief work is on.

"Other risk factors can raise the chance for substance abuse during the grieving process. For example, a person with a history of anxiety, depression, previous addiction, or a lack of social support is more prone to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope after a loved one’s death. Those with a family history of alcoholism or drug addiction may be more vulnerable as well." 
Kerala witnessed one of the worst flood situations in a century. Over 3.26 lakh people are still in relief camps across Kerala even after a fortnight of the devastating deluge that left a trail of destruction claiming 322 lives and rendering thousands homeless. With rehabilitation measures on, the government said an immediate relief of Rs 10,000 would be disbursed soon to the flood-affected.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday urged all Malayalis to donate one month salary to rebuild the state.

In many districts, people have started moving from camps to their homes after cleaning work has been completed. The receding flood waters had left mounds of mud and debris in their homes and surroundings.

As Kerala struggles to stand on her feet, water logging of homes in various places, especially in Kuttanad region of the worst-hit Alapuzha district continues to be a worrying factor.

Huge pumps will be used to flush out water from homes and premises, after which the cleaning process will be taken up by removing the accumulated silt, authorities said.

Vijayan, who had accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during the aerial surveys, said they were touched by the intensity of the devastation and he hoped that the Centre would provide more funds.

The Prime Minister assured the Governor that Kerala would get more central funds from the National Disaster Response Fund as per laid down procedure and that the Rs 600 crore central aid released so far was only the advance assistance.

As on date a total of 10 Columns and 12 Engineer Task Force of the Army are carrying out continuous rescue and relief operations in the area.

The troops are involved in road opening, clearing of landslides and construction of temporary bridges, utilising the natural resources available in the area.

So far approximately 26 temporary bridges have been constructed, repaired and approximately 50 roads cleared for the general public, a defence press release said.

At least 3.64 lakh carcasses of birds and over 17,000 of big animals have been retrieved and buried so far.

Friday, August 31, 2018

IOGT International World Congress 69 Open Letter

Expressing solidarity with people of Vietnam and supporting comprehensive alcohol policy solutions in open letter to Prime Minister, Health Minister, and National Assembly Chair

H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
H.E. Vu Duc Dam,
Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
H.E. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien,
Minister of Health
H.E. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan,
Chairwoman of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
H.E. Nguyen Thuy Anh,
Chairwoman, National Assembly Social Affairs Committee
Your Excellency,
It is our distinct honor and privilege to address You by way of this letter. We are the assembled delegates of the 69th Session of the IOGT International World Congress. Founded in 1851, IOGT International is today the largest global network for evidence- based policy solutions and community-based interventions to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.
We, the delegates from more than 40 countries, are writing to You today with regard to the Vietnamese government’s work to adopt a new and evidence-based alcohol law to promote health and development in Vietnam.
We, strongly support Your efforts to tackle alcohol harm. Evidence shows that alcohol- related damage, death, and deprivation are rampant in Vietnam. Recently published WHO evidence shows that 79.000 people die every year due to alcohol and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized due to alcohol-related diseases. Alcohol also causes massive economic losses of up to 3.3% of GDP.
We therefore express our solidarity with the people of Vietnam whose families are decimated and whose communities are disrupted by pervasive alcohol harm. It is clear that high-level political commitment and persistent, evidence-based action is urgently needed.
For that reason, we wish to express our grave concern about alcohol industry interference into the process of drafting and adopting the alcohol law. This is deeply troubling because Big Alcohol is ruthlessly pursuing profits with no regard for Human Rights, human dignity, and human well-being. The alcohol industry has accumulated an appalling track record of aggressive political activity to undermine, derail, and obstruct evidence-based and cost-effective alcohol policy measures that would benefit people and societies, but hurt their profits. Big Alcohol interventions in the Vietnamese government’s processes to draft and adopt a comprehensive alcohol laws, is not to promote health and development in Vietnam, but to secure their investments and protect their profits. This is a clear conflict of interest.
We therefore reiterate that it is Your governments’ right and duty to both protect Your citizens from harm and invest to promote the health, well-being and socio-economic status of the people of Vietnam.
Alcohol is a major obstacle to sustainable development, adversely affecting Your government’s ability to reach 13 of the 17 SDGs. Alcohol is also a leading risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases including mental ill-health in Vietnam, with strong links between alcohol and cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, diabetes and mental health conditions. But this NCDs epidemic and the massive burden of alcohol harm in Vietnamese communities can be curbed and modified. High-impact, cost-effective and evidence-based alcohol policy tools are available and we commend You for including those into the draft law.
The alcohol policy best buys hold considerable and largely untapped potential to promote health and development in Vietnam and to protect especially vulnerable groups like children and youth, women and people in the most deprived and marginalized communities. For example, a $1 investment in the alcohol policy best buy measures generates a return of $9 dollars.
It is of utmost importance to protect Your process of drafting the alcohol law from interference of Big Alcohol. Their fundamental conflict of interest means that they are not a reliable and trustworthy source of information on the impact of WHO- recommended, scientifically proven measures.
This becomes clear in, for example, the case of alcohol taxation. We are deeply troubled by the fact that Heineken and other Big Alcohol entities have attacked the inclusion of increased alcohol taxation in the draft alcohol law. Just this week, brand new research published in the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs” shows that alcohol taxation is a triple-win measure as it reduces alcohol consumption, eases the burden of alcohol harm, and helps raise domestic resources for health promotion and sustainable development.
We want to congratulate You for the progress You have made in drafting a comprehensive and evidence-based alcohol law. We strongly encourage You to follow the WHO advice and best practice examples from other countries in Your region in including all alcohol policy best buy measures in Your law. And we pledge our support to You in standing up to an unethical alcohol industry that has not the best interest of Your country and people in mind, but only their own profits.
It is high-time that alcohol policy solutions become the priority they should be in Vietnam and Your continued leadership is essential to make this a reality.
Yours sincerely,
Bratislava,                                                                         Gothenburg,

20 August 2018                                                                 20 August 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018

Drug prevention is an empworing process...Quick fixing is Dangrous

“This is no quick fix. There is no band-aid big enough for this life.” ---Daniel Abbott, The Concrete

The story of an 18-year-old Shubam is a classic example of what is happening to our youth today and an eye-opener for us, especially parents. Shubam was a sincere student and loved by all at home and school. He was the only child of doting parents, who put him in a leading school and provided him all facilities. A car ferried him to school and back, he had private tutors at home who helped him with his homework and his parents left no stone unturned to keep him happy. But they never spoke to him about various life skills and soft skills needed by the youth today. They never taught him how to be emotionally strong and assertive. They never spoke of peer pressure, drugs and good behaviour. They loved him, but hardly communicated all this to him because they did not know this was important.

Shubam passed out of school with good grades and got admission in an Engineering college away from his hometown. He shifted to the hostel and then started his woes. He started his college life with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. He had good and hard working friends initially but gradually he fell into bad company and his academic performance started dwindling.

He was often spotted in local pubs smoking, drinking and dancing with his girlfriends and peers. He was a bit hesitant about this life style initially but with no one to guide him, he gave in to peer pressure and started liking his new friends and their way of living. They had late night parties and missed classes. Shubam failed in his yearly exams but didn't tell his parents about this and they were blissfully unaware of the situation. By now his alcohol intake had increased considerably and he had problems concentrating and driving. He felt disoriented and once he drove his car fast and slammed it into another car leading to his arrest for negligent driving. His friends deserted him and his college suspended him. They reported this to his parents and asked them to intervene.

The parents were in a state of shock when they realised how bad and explosive the situation was, but it was too late for them to repent now. Shubam was diagnosed with alcohol addiction and sent to a rehab centre for treatment. Such cases are very common today and come to us everyday for counselling and help. The figures are staggering. About 190 million people all over the world consume one drug or the other. About100 people die daily from drug overdose. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years.

Substance abuse is the abuse of any chemical substance(both legal and illegal drugs) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to himself or to others.

Youth take drugs due to various reasons. Peer pressure makes them want to be accepted and fit in with his/her peers. They feel good by using the drugs, which interact with the neurochemistry of the brain. They also use substances to fight stress or depression because they feel these drugs will lessen their distress. They use them as a maladaptive coping strategy for stress management. Some think that the substances will improve their performance and they will fare better in the competitions they have to face.

Adolescents try to experiment and while the assertive youth stop after their initial trials, the emotionally weaker ones fall prey to this malady. They learn it from the social media and movies where the heroes who smoke and drink are appreciated. Some learn it from their parents whom they have seen consuming these at home.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) indicates the following risk factors for developing drug abuse problems (typically seen in adolescence):

•             Unstable home environment, often due to drug abuse or mental illness of the parent

•             Poor relationship with parents

•             Inadequate supervision over adolescent's activities

•             Use of drugs by friends / peers

•             Permissive attitude towards their own drug use and the drug use of the adolescent

•             Behavioural problems combined with poor parenting

•             Poor achievement in school

•             Apparent ambivalence or approval of drug use in the school, peer group or community

•             Availability of drugs in the community, peer group or home

NIDA continues to use the term “addiction” to describe compulsive drug seeking despite negative consequences. It is a brain disorder.

Drug Addiction indicates a psychological or physical dependence on the drug to function and is characterised by the person developing compulsions, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms .

Addiction is a developmental chronic disease and it usually begins in childhood or adolescence and continues thereafter. In cases of addiction changes have been found in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers,  and these stop a person from exerting any control on the impulse to take drugs, even when he knows that there are negative consequences like stigma and social disapproval attached to its use.

Addiction can affect us negatively in many ways. The short term effects include changes in appetite, wakefulness, heart rate, blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, psychosis, overdose, and even death. These health effects may occur after just one use. The long term effects can include heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and addictions.Sometimes  we face Social Stigma, unemployment, housing, relationships and criminal cases against the abusers.

•             When we see sudden changes in an adolescent's behavior, like aggression or hostility for no apparent reason—or is withdrawn,excessively tired or depressed- it should be a wake-up call for the parents. Carelessness in daily grooming habits, decline in academic performance, missing classes, loss of interest in favourite activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, deteriorating relations with family members and friends,spending or asking for more pocket money and signs of syringes or unknown medicine strips or cigarette stubs with the person are some of the signs of substance abuse.


The initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary by the adolescent. Children should be empowered to say no to drugs in the initial stage itself. Children should be psycho-educated and empowered with adaptive coping skills, assertive skills, resilience skills and taught to have high self-esteem so that they can say no to drugs.

Parents need to recognise that their child is not behaving as he or she normally does. If he is taking drugs, then they should find out the underlying cause for this. There could also be an associated mental health or medical disorder.

A proper medical and mental checkup with all investigations is a must. Parents who are unable to understand the problem should take professional help from a trained psychologist.

If a child is already taking drugs immediate professional help and counselling is needed. Drug addiction is also preventable and manageable with medical help and professional counselling. It is a more difficult and lengthy procedure and consumes a lot of time, effort and money. Support of the family is very important.

(The writer is a neuro-psychologist and CBSE counsellor)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Treat Victims of Drugs Humanely.!

Treat Victims of Drugs Humanely.!
Prof.T K Thomas
Last Tuesday [26th June] was International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. One casually tuned into the lead story at 7 in the morning on Asianet News to find out that drug addiction in Kerala had gone up five times after a majority of bars were closed down in 2016 by the Congress led UDF government. During this period alcohol consumption had declined, the story mentioned. This turned out to be one’s thought for the day. Is alcohol a drug like cannabis, opiates etc? One has studied the problem of drugs and addiction for almost four decades and has learned that alcohol is indeed a drug. It comes in the category depressants [Drugs incidentally are categorized in to seven types on the basis of their effect on those who use them- for example while a depressant slows down, a stimulant speeds up or a hallucinogen disrupts communication within one’s brain and so on.]
Alcohol unlike other drugs is licit or legal and considered socially acceptable. It has since long been part of festivities and celebrations; for governments it is a major source of revenue. But it can lead to addiction which is accepted as a disease. It is considered a family disease as close relations of an addict suffers more than him; he indulges in domestic violence, starves his family, neglects his children to give a few problems.
Alcohol related diseases and alcohol related deaths are a major concern. It was estimated that in 2012 there were 3.3 million deaths in India due to alcohol consumption related diseases. No wonder successive governments have been concerned about this problem. But unfortunately the problem of addiction, first to alcohol and then to other drugs, is only showing an upward swing. Despite ban on alcohol advertisements in all the media especially television channels, surrogate alcohol ads rule the airwaves especially during popular national and international sports events. One sees it during the ongoing football World Cup in Russia or had seen plenty of them during the IPL [Indian ‘Paisa’ nay Premier League]. During the IPL Suneel Vatsyayan, a leading voice in the fight against drug addiction, prevention and alcohol advertisements blogged, ”The ongoing Indian Premier League [IPL] tournament has more liquor ads than one can count. There are ads for Seagram’s Royal Stag, Royal Challenge, Signature, Black &White and why [ASCI] Advertising Standard Council of India turning a blind eye to this charade of surrogate ads that are openly selling liquor and nothing else.
There are ads on air for Royal Challenge, Black & White, Signature and Chivas Regal. All liquor ads for sure, but masquerading as completely different products, mostly nonexistent”.
All concerned authorities seem to have closed their eyes when blatant violation of rules and regulations were adopted by the industry in circumventing the rules to unabashedly promote surrogate alcohol ads. They actually make fun of the intelligence of the average viewer. There appears to be active connivance of the industry, media and regulatory bodies. They succeed in creating an artificial or make belief world of celebrity lifestyle which cajole the young people to accept alcohol as a symbol of success and style. While on the one hand preventive agencies try to persuade and wean away young people from the reality of the danger of excess drinking of alcohol, the reel life of celebrities and the so called successful people portrayed in surrogate alcohol ads invite them to accept alcohol as a sign of success and prosperity.
The real tragedy is that it is often the poorer and the marginalized sections of our society who fall victim to deadly addiction. They tend to believe that alcohol is an antidote for all their problems; it gives them relaxation after a hard day’s work, give them a feeling of well being, good appetite and sleep, ability to forget their worries and so on. Needless to say, these are all false notions and soon they destroy their families and end up in some nondescript de-addiction or rehabilitation center which is a journey out of the frying pan into the fire. Of course there are professionally and scientifically run centers. Having visited a number of centers managed by people who had a drug/alcohol connection one can say that they were some of the worst places. People prefer private centers to government run facilities. It is reported that a Rs.5 crore 100 bed center inaugurated in Punjab in 2015 had just one patient whereas private centers are overflowing with patients. One of the main reasons is that private centers do not insist on the consent of the patients unlike government run centers.
The Indian Express, on the eve of this year’s International Day Against Drugs and Illicit Trafficking had carried a story on what happened to a number of de-addiction centers based on an inspection report on such centers submitted to the Delhi High Court. The front page story actually sums up the plight of the patients in such centers, “Asked to perform sexual favours, subjected to physical and sexual torture, treated as slave, not allowed to contact their families-and death allegedly due to torture or wrong treatment.” On the basis of writ petitions filed on unregulated de-addiction centers the Delhi High Court had asked the Delhi State Legal Services Authority [DSLSA] which submitted the report to the High Court on 1st June. “According to the report the DSLSA in fact had inspected 124 de-addiction centers, out of which 28 were found shut. In the remaining 96 centers the Authority interacted with 2135 inmates -750 said they were detained involuntarily”.
Responding to the report the Bench comprising justices S. Muralidhar and I S Mehta said that such violations of fundamental rights to life, liberty and dignity as enshrined in the constitution are “unconscionable.” The court said, “It is paradoxical too. On the one hand, there is fairly a large population of persons in need of de-addiction and on the other hand, we have several unauthorized and illegally run centers exploiting the situation, charging money and subjecting such persons to inhumane and degrading treatment.’’ The bench has also ordered the Delhi Police to act on the DSLSA report and to proceed in accordance of the law against the centers where such inmates have been subjected to inhumane treatment.
This Delhi High Court order will go a long way in regularizing the de-addiction and treatment centers for hundreds of thousands of drug and alcohol addicts in the country. There is dire need for such facilities. Government facilities are said to be grossly inadequate. Concerned civil society organizations and the voluntary sector need to come in the field with standard of care, qualified health professionals and counselors with residential facilities. Agencies like DSLSA or regulatory bodies need to ensure quality and effective de-addiction/ treatment and rehabilitation centers in all states if the scourge of addiction is to be eliminated. The problem is really serious and a new national policy on alcohol and drugs is required to combat it.
As one was concluding this piece on Monday [2nd July], breaking news from Punjab was flashed on all channels about the press statements followed by a tweet by Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, “My government has decided to recommend death penalty for drug peddling /smuggling. The recommendation is being forwarded to the union government. Since drug peddling is destroying entire generations, it deserves exemplary punishment. I stand by my commitment for a drug free Punjab.’’ His intentions are appreciated notwithstanding the fact that there are provisions for death penalty for repeat offenders even in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act [NDPS] of 1985!
The problem of drug abuse in Punjab in the light of what the CM said on 1st July has to be looked at from another angle and the urgency for such a move. Before and during the state Assembly elections in Punjab the problem of drugs was a major issue. Media reports portrayed Punjab as ravaged by rampant drug trafficking and addiction. The Congress Party that trounced the Akali Dal-BJP coalition had assured that they will rid the state of the drug menace. Ground realities today, after fifteen months of being in power, despite some initiatives are not exactly praiseworthy. In fact The Tribune had come out with a story on 29th June with the headline, “Anger, fear in Punjab as June sees 23 Deaths from Drugs”. There are heart rending stories of parents wailing and mourning the death of their children from villages like Kotakapura and Cheharta. The police and other agencies are concerned and active but the intravenous use of deadly dugs like ‘Cut’ [a new addition to the terminology of adulterated heroin] has pervaded the length and breadth of the state. The authorities are almost helpless. It is indeed tragic that these deaths have taken place during the month of June, the 26th day of which is the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit trafficking.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Alcohol Marketing in India #enoughNCDs

Alcohol Marketing in India: #enoughNCDs 
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy identifies the importance of reducing the impact of marketing, particularly on young people and adolescents, as an important consideration in reducing harmful use of alcohol.It has been observed that alcohol use has escalated as one of the leading risk factors for global burden of disease.  
The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, in force September 8, 2000, completely prohibits cigarette and alcohol advertisements.  However, it is evident that we are living in a media dark era. The industry circumvents the bans on advertising by surrogate advertising, and the images in alcohol advertising have changed from voluptuous pin-ups (targeting the traditional market of middle-aged male consumers) to depictions of a ‘good life’, aimed clearly at women and youth.
This is also an era of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where the promotion of content by an alcohol brand is still a gray area and many alcohol brands aim at building a community instead of straight off plugging the alcohol.  It’s important that both the media and celebrities take into consideration the impact of the product before they’d decide to endorse or promote it. There are celebrities who do that and who receive much praise, like movie stars Ranbir Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Singer Shaan, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar who turned down alcohol and tobacco brands. These sportsmen and other celebrities are true role models who put the well being of their fans and society before their own wallets and bank accounts. 

The ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament has more liquor ads than one can count. There are ads for Seagram’s Royal Stag, Royal Challenge, Signature, Black & White and why (ASCI) Advertising Standards Council of India  turning a blind eye to this charade of surrogate ads that are openly selling liquor, and nothing else?
One of the leading liquor brands was recently associated with a five-part web series on four friends trying to launch a startup. With more than 10 million viewers, the show went viral in the startup community, and is currently rated 9.7 on IMDB. By producing the show, the brand avoided surrogate advertising and revolutionized liquor advertising in India. The events sponsored by liquor brands — from music festivals to tasting sessions to sports events — have only grown bigger over the past decade. One of the Vineyards in India reveals they had 250,000 visitors at its different facilities in Nasik last year and they conducted 45,000 tastings at the vineyard. 

Consumption of alcohol in India has expanded at an average of 8.9% annually in the past six years, reaching an estimated $22 billion (1.46 trillion rupees) last year. India is the 3rd largest liquor market in the world, with an overall retail market size of $35 billion per annum. A global study by Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that alcohol consumption in India has risen by 55% over a period of 20 years, from 1992 to 2012.With the minimum drinking age varying from 18 to 25 across states, India had approximately 485 million people of legal drinking age in 2013. This is more than the population of the United States and Mexico combined. Another 150 million are predicted to join this group by 2018. 

To address the impact of alcohol use on society, a national policy on alcohol use is needed.  The alcohol policy includes measures by the government to control supply and demand, minimize alcohol-related harm and promote public health.  At present, India does not have a national alcohol policy. However, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has a mandate for Alcohol and Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention Policies. Another central concern that the new drug demand reduction policy must address, I think, is the aggressive push by the global alcohol industry to recruit our children and youth as loyal consumers. Therefore, special measures and programs to prevent underage alcohol use and to reduce overall per-capita alcohol consumption in India is the need of the hour, as Big Alcohol marketing strategies are becoming ever more aggressive and pervasive. Also, alcohol-related harm should be urgently addressed from a child rights perspective. To achieve a healthier society, harmful substances must become much less available – socially, financially, psychologically and physically. 
*Chairperson, Nada India Foundation
  Nada India Foundation

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