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‘Alcohol is a bigger problem than tobacco’

The health minister said it becomes a way of life among the young and it ruins the health of millions in our country, reports Sanchita Sharma.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2008 03:07 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

After tobacco, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss seems to have focused his attention on alcohol.

“Alcohol is a bigger problem than tobacco because it is becoming a way of life among the young in India. Drinking alcohol is definitely not our culture, it is a western culture and it is ruining the health of millions of young people in our country,” he said at the launch of the pilot project of the Rs 1,650-crore National Programme for the Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiobvascular Diseases and Stroke.

Alcohol abuse not just causes death because of road accidents and injuries but a host of other diseases in people in their most productive years, the minister reminded, adding that even though alcohol is a state subject, alcoholism has become a national problem. “Something needs to be done,” he declared.

According to the international medical journal The Lancet, alcohol causes almost as many deaths and disabilities globally as smoking or high blood pressure. The report said alcohol raised the risk of as many as 60 different diseases, with 4 per cent of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol, compared with 4.1 per cent to tobacco and 4.4 per cent to high blood pressure.

Alcohol is a subject close to the heart of health minister’s father, PMK founder S Ramadoss, who in Chennai today accused the Tamil Nadu government-run liquor shops of exploiting the poor for profit, making Rs31,000 crore since it took over the retail trade of IFML in 2004. “This money belonged to the rural poor and taking it from them made the poor poorer,” he said, demanding that all state-government run liquor shops in rural areas be closed down.

“Policies should be directed more towards prevention than cure. Tobacco causes 40 per cent of the country's health problem and at least one million premature deaths. Tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are the four common risk factors of the four diseases — heart, diabetes, lung diseases and cancers — that cause over half of India's deaths each year. The percentage of preventable deaths will rise from the current 53 per cent to 58.9 per cent in 2015 if interventions are not taken,” says Dr Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.

The national programme on Prevention and Control of Cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes and Stroke will initially be launched in six districts — Kamrup in Assam, Jalandhar in Punjab, Bhilwara in Rajastha, Shimoga in Karnataka, Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala — and then be extended to the rest of the country.