India Battles Corona, Opening Liquor Sales Adds Fuel to the Fire

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Let all the religions unite in the appeal to the Prime Minister not to allow sale of liquor in the country. This is an ideal opportunity for the addicts to give up their habit forever. If using this opportunity the whole country is declared Dry Area for ever, the scourge of corona will be a blessing for all Indians, especially women and children. Let this message be circulated widely. Let everyone write a letter to the PM clearly saying, “No to liquor. Let this movement become the biggest example of the unity of India.

Dr Javed Jamil | Clarion India

WHILE the country is busy fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, certain state governments are showing utmost eagerness to open liquor shops. It’s  like adding fuel to the fire. Alcohol is a bigger problem than Corona. It kills on regular basis more than 10,000 people worldwide every day. It certainly kills more people in India daily than Corona.

According to T T Ranganathan Clinical Research Foundation, Chennai, India has an estimated 62.5 million alcohol users.  Due to this large population, the country has been identified as the potentially third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world which has attracted the attention of multinational liquor companies.

According to the report, the market of alcohol has been growing steadily at 6 per cent and is estimated to grow at a rate of 8 per cent per year.  People now drink at an early age. Changing social norms, urbanisation, increased availability, high-intensity, mass marketing and relaxation of overseas trade rules along with poor level of awareness related to alcohol has contributed to increased alcohol use.

“Alcohol and public health” by Dr Vivek Benegal reports:

“Alcohol-related problems account for over a fifth of hospital admissions but are under-recognised by primary care physicians. Alcohol misuse has been implicated in over 20 per cent of traumatic brain injuries and 60 per cent of all injuries reporting to emergency rooms. It has a disproportionately high association with deliberate self-harm, high-risk sexual behaviour, HIV infection, tuberculosis, oesophageal cancer, liver disease and duodenal ulcer. A study from the state of Karnataka in South India estimated that monetisable direct and indirect costs attributable to people with alcohol dependence alone, was more than three times the profits from alcohol taxation and several times more than the annual health budget of that state.”

Alcohol not only kills the drinkers but also is a major factor in accidents, murders, suicides and rapes.

Alcohol dependence and abuse are manifested by tolerance, withdrawal, inability to fulfill role obligations, recurrent substance related legal problems and social and interpersonal problems. Alcohol can lead to several other diseases. Cirrhosis is a disease related to alcohol that more often than not proves fatal. It is among the leading killers in many countries where alcohol consumption is high.

Other medical conditions related to alcohol include cancers (liver and laryngeal), heart diseases, maternal and child health problem (low birth weight and spontaneous abortion), injuries (falls, burns, or work-related), accidents (water and auto transport) and violence (suicide, assault and child abuse). Alcohol is also related to traffic accidents, increased risks of all sex-transmitted diseases including AIDS and suicides.

In women, it is related to several cancers like those of breast and liver. Maternal consumption during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects in children. It is linked to the birth of children with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. In several countries, FAS is considered to be the most important cause of mental retardation.

Alcohol increases the risks of unhealthy sexual behaviour. Studies of AIDS in other countries, such as Thailand, indicate that alcohol consumption influences many dimensions of sexual behaviour. One such study, which included students, soldiers and clerks, revealed that “heavy drinking increased the odds of having had sexual intercourse; increased the odds of having visited prostitutes; and decreased the odds of consistent condom use in sexual encounters with sex workers (Van Landingham and others, 1993).”

Another report says, “The relationship between drinking and HIV risk behaviours, such as visiting commercial sex workers or having sex without condoms, is not one of simple causality. It has been argued that drinking behaviour co-occurs with other dangerous factors; such risk-taking includes beverages made from sugarcane alcohol and agaves, such as mescal and sotol. Aguardiente means “burning water” (Aledina-Mora, 1999).”

The alcohol consumption is directly associated with increased health risks related to alcohol, crimes, accidents, sex-related problems, suicides and domestic violence. Latest figures show that alcohol accounts for around 2.5 million deaths annually. According to the data available, the economic cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in the US was 117 billion dollars in 1983. Latest data have shown it as around 223.5 billion. European countries lead the table of countries having maximum per capita consumption of alcohol. Canada, the US, South Africa and Australia follow Europe. South American, Asian and African countries come next.

According to WHO, 1.25 million deaths occurred in traffic accidents in 2013. Out of these, at least 30 per cent are estimated to be due to drunk driving. Some 437,000 people murdered worldwide in 2012, according to new UNODC study. In various studies, it has been shown that the murderers took alcohol in almost 40 per cent of the cases before committing the crime.

Let us see the following facts:

* Worldwide, alcohol accounts for more than 2.5 million deaths.

* According to Global Burden estimates, the extent of worldwide psychoactive substance use is estimated at 2 billion alcohol users, 1.3 billion smokers and 185 million drug users.

*In an initial estimate of factors responsible for the global burden of disease, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs contributed together 12.4% of all deaths worldwide in the year 2000. Looking at the percentage of total years of life lost due to these substances, it has been estimated that they account for 8.9%7.

*In developing nations, alcohol ranks as the fourth cause of disability among men.

* Deaths attributable to alcohol form 1.3 percent for developed regions and 1.6 percent for developing regions.

* ‘The Global Burden of Disease’ study estimated that, in 1990, alcohol was responsible for 3.5 percent of the world’s total disability-adjusted life-years lost. This exceeds the tolls taken by tobacco (2.6 percent) and illicit drugs (0.6 percent) combined8. Among men, alcohol is the leading cause of disability in industrialised countries and ranks fourth in causing disabilities in developing countries (WHO, 1999).

* In industrialised nations, 14.3 % and in developing nations, 4.4% of total disability adjusted life years are lost.

* In 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 35 per cent of all traffic deaths occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or non-occupant had a BAC of 0.08 per cent or more and that any alcohol was present in 41 per cent of all fatal crashes in 2002.

* Alcohol was estimated to cause 41 per cent of suicide cases among men in Australia, compared to only 16 per cent among their female counterparts.

* In both Canada and Australia, 16 per cent of child abuse cases could be attributed to alcohol. In Japan, 20 per cent of abused children had alcoholic parents, and in Hungary 8.6 per cent of child abuse cases in 1994 involved alcohol (Fekete, 1996). Alcohol has also been associated with a high proportion of child abuse cases in the UK (30 per cent) and Norway (50 per cent) (Moser, 1992).

* Alcohol use disorders present serious problems for the interpersonal relationships, health, and productivity of employed men and women. Of the $117 billion estimated as the economic cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in the United States in 1983, nearly $71 billion (61 per cent) was attributed to lost employment and reduced productivity.

* A new study finds that excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or about $1.90 per drink. 14

Alcohol is one of the biggest trades of the world. There have, therefore, been concerted efforts by the market to promote beneficial aspects of alcohol with remarks such as “if taken in moderation alcohol can improve life expectancy in the old age”. “If” and “can” in that remark suppress the facts that are very well known to the medical community. “Old age” is an attempt to attract older people. Safe drinking and safe sex are nothing but ploys to perpetuate dangerous trades. A paper by Benjamin J. Sadock and Virginia A. Sadock claims that alcohol abuse reduces life expectancy by about 10 years, and alcohol leads all other substances in substance-related deaths.

Let all the religions unite in the appeal to the Prime Minister not to allow the sales of liquor in the country. This is an ideal opportunity for the addicts to give up their habit forever. If using this opportunity, the whole country is declared Dry Area for ever, the scourge of corona will become a blessing for all Indians, especially women and children. Let this message be circulated widely. Let everyone write a letter to the PM clearly saying: No to liquor. Let this movement become the biggest example of the unity of India.


Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker, physician, poet and writer with over 20 books to his credit including his latest, “Economics First or Health First?”. He currently holds Chair in Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalore, Karnataka (India). He can be contacted at [email protected].

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