The state of Himachal Pradesh, also known as Dev Bhoomi or the land of gods, emerged as tipplers’ paradise. It has the highest number of men and women consuming alcohol in the northern region, higher than the land of the Patiala peg, Punjab, reveals the district-level health survey (DLHS)-4 conducted under the Union ministry of health and family welfare for 2013.
The survey, which is yet to be formally released, says 37% of Himachal’s men and 1.8% women consume alcohol. Though the number for women remains relatively low, Lahaul and Spiti district has the highest number of woman drinkers in the region. In smoking, too, Himachal tops the region with 34.1% men and 2% women smoking tobacco.
Haryana, Chandigarh and Punjab follow in that order. Questions regarding alcohol and smoking were asked in the DLHS for the first time.
“Himachal people may be into ‘healthy drinking’, when you have alcohol in limited quantity, as I do not see any major rise in number of people coming for alcohol de-addiction. For tobacco de-addiction, though, a lot of people are approaching us,” says Dr Ravi Sharma, head of psychiatry department and state de-addiction centre at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla.Dr Aswini Kumar Nanda, professor, population research centre at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh, reasons, "The high consumption of liquor in HP is due to easy availability and accessibility. At a lot of places it is locally made and there is little restriction on brewing. The state has a cold climate too, which contributes to it." On the other hand, Chandigarh UT has 36.3% men are into drinking while 1% of women consume alcohol. Punjab has 34.9% men consuming liquor but among women it is just 0.7%. Districtwise in the northern region, every second man in SAS Nagar (Mohali) district of Punjab consumes liquor.
Haryana has only 20.2% of men consuming alcohol and 0.6% women. J&K figures were not immediately available. Even Kerala, debunking its reputation, is behind Himachal and has 30.1% men and 0.8 % women consuming alcohol, while figures for Andhra Pradesh are 32.3% for males and 3.2% for women.
Of the data available — for some states it is being compiled — north-eastern states have much higher number of males consuming liquor with Arunachal Pradesh on the top at 65.4% men and 38.1% women into drinking.
For Sikkim it is 45.3% men and 26 % women.
The Himachal government had recently announced that it would soon ban sale of loose cigarettes as most students buy them and these do not carry any warning signs as such.