Though the permissible age for consuming alcohol ranges from 18 to 25 in different states, the average age of those who start drinking in the country is a startling 13 years — down from 19 a few years ago and from 28 about two decades ago.
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told Lok Sabha on Wednesday that a larger number of teens are joining the ranks of tipplers, posing a big health risk for the future.
“Till a few years ago, the average age for starting to drink was 19, down from 28 in the 1990s, but now it is 13.5,” he said in reply to a question.
Between 2002 and 2008, beer sales in India recorded a 90 per cent jump — the highest in the world — while China recorded an increase of 50 per cent and Brazil 20 per cent. Per capita consumption of liquor in India is 4 litres, half that of the United States and Britain.
Among the states, Kerala tops the per capita consumption of liquor with 8.3 litres per year, followed by Punjab with 7.9 litres and Haryana with 7.1 litres, according to health ministry data.
“Alcohol is turning into the mother of all health problems,” Ramadoss said as BJP members thumped their desks in support of a National Liquor Health Policy. “The liquor policy is the need of the hour if we are to check future health problems,” he added.
As he pressed the need to curb drinking, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said, “You are extending your jurisdiction... see how many tobacco and alcohol manufacturers are there in your constituency.”