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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

Call for excise duty tweak to curb drinking of hard liquor

An outfit called Consumer Voice, citing concerns about India’s high per-capita alcohol consumption, also urged a ban on ultra-small liquor bottles and a minimum unit price for alcohol to raise the cost of the least expensive alcoholic beverages

G.S. Mudur New Delhi Published 10.02.23, 03:42 AM
It has asked governments to consult health departments to formulate alcohol control policies that would seek to moderate and reduce per capita consumption “instead of extreme steps like prohibition”.

It has asked governments to consult health departments to formulate alcohol control policies that would seek to moderate and reduce per capita consumption “instead of extreme steps like prohibition”. Representational picture

A consumer outfit on Thursday urged the Centre and states to revise excise policies to help curb alcohol consumption, saying current policies encourage intoxication through hard liquor such as rum, whiskey or vodka.

The outfit called Consumer Voice, citing concerns about India’s high per-capita alcohol consumption, also urged a ban on ultra-small liquor bottles and a minimum unit price for alcohol to raise the cost of the least expensive alcoholic beverages. It has asked governments to consult health departments to formulate alcohol control policies that would seek to moderate and reduce per capita consumption “instead of extreme steps like prohibition”.

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High alcohol beverages such as whiskey currently attract the lowest duties which makes hard liquor, especially Indian-made foreign liquor, more affordable than low alcohol beverages such as beer or wine, Consumer Voice said. This duty structure, it said, encourages consumption of high alcohol beverages.

“India does not have a central-level policy to reduce alcohol consumption,” said Ashim Sanyal, the chief executive officer at Consumer Voice, a group of academics and volunteers campaigning for consumer rights through improvements in policies and rules.

The consumer group, citing a 2018 World Health Organisation report, said the per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages in India had more than doubled from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016.

After China, India is the second largest consumer of hard liquor like rum, whiskey, or vodka. India’s per capita consumption of hard liquor was 13.5 litres, the highest in the world, compared to 6.6 litres in Brazil, 4.8 litres in the US, or 3.2 litres in Germany. However, India’s per capita alcohol from beer was 1.1 litres, compared with 6.4 litres in the US or 5.3 litres in Australia.

Consumer Voice has used pricing data from 2021 and 2022 to cite examples of how liquor prices in several states increase the affordability of hard liquor and encourage its consumption by making possible higher intoxication levels at the same or lower price.

In Karnataka, the lowest priced Indian whiskey was available for Rs 56 for 180ml, while the lowest priced beer cost Rs 50 for a 330ml pint.

The consumer group has credited four states — Bengal, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — for reducing taxes on beer to reduce prices and moderate the intake of high alcohol beverages.

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