Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

A Long Road to Community Control. (News)

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

A Long Road to Community Control. (News)

Article excerpt

"Alcohol companies have become very active in India in recent years," adds Dr Shekhar Saxena, coordinator in the mental health and substance dependence department of WHO.

"Legally, no alcohol can be advertised either in print or in the electronic media in India, but under the same brand name companies sell mineral water or playing cards or glasses, and of course the name catches on. And billboards advertising alcohol are put on cricket grounds, and of course TV covers the match, ball by ball, showing the adverts in the background. And there are plenty of satellite channels carrying advertising from outside.

"Also taxes have not kept pace with inflation -- real taxes, especially on beer, have gone down. The total amount of spirits consumed is much greater than beer, but beer is the fastest growing -- especially among young people.

"Two or three states tried complete prohibition. But it didn't work. The state of Haryana, adjacent to Delhi, banned alcohol for 18 months, starting in 1996, but there was a great deal of illegal production and smuggling from "wet" states next door. And the state economy collapsed without the alcohol taxes! So they had to repeal the ban.

"Community movements could play a great role, but unfortunately the experience of the last few years in India is not very encouraging. Over time, other community interests and a lack of political will seem to get in the way. …

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