India is the second largest producer of tobacco and a dominant producer of alcohol in the world but we are a population where 89% of people abstain from consuming alcohol for their lifetimes hence are a vulnerable target of international liquor industries who find a potential market in the Indian society. The growing urbanization invasion of foreign goods into our markets, increased affordability and massive mass marketing techniques have created an urge to splurge thereby weakening the delicate fabric of our society by directly trying to alter our values and beliefs in the name of modernization and liberation.
The Indian Government has enacted a legislation called “Cigarette and other tobacco products Act 2003” that bans any form of direct and indirect tobacco advertisements but ironically there is no ban on manufacture of these fatal products also overseas trade rules have been relaxed for liquor giants only some states like Gujarat, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland have enforced prohibition of consumption of alcohol. There are countless arguments that a taboo on alcohol is not going to stop people from consuming it but the ground zero reality is that a taboo is definitely going to reduce the growing consumption rates and save people from the many problems directly inflicted by alcohol and tobacco.
- Alcohol is a depressant drug containing mood changing agent called ethyl alcohol.
- Alcohol has no nutrients and does not relieve any stress or tensions. It is rapidly absorbed by blood stream altering brain receptors and neurotransmitters resulting in aggression.
- Alcohol and tobacco are fatal to health and directly responsible for growing violence, crimes, accidents and poverty levels in the country.
But why can’t India shun this deadly killer?
The liquor industry is like the goose that lays golden eggs by providing huge tax revenues to the government. The liquor barons argue that it provides employment to lakhs of people but even betting, bribery involving touts, prostitution and terrorism provides employment does that mean we can legalize anything that fetches revenue and everything that goes out of control? No wait I am not cynical, alcohol has existed even in pre historic times but the way it is promoted today rapidly conquering our almost abstinent middleclass and youth signals a dangerous trend setting in. It appears to be a well calculated far sighted strategy deployed to contain a country like India with enormous potential from becoming a super power.
By banning direct advertising of liquor the government concedes with the fact that it certainly is harmful for the health of its people but again by allowing the manufacture and unhindered promotion of these products by various devious means the government is simply downplaying a serious issue taking shelter in the name of modernization, development and global compliance.
If governments take an intrepid step like banning alcohol how are they going to garner votes? If people wake up from their inebriated slumber and start thinking how will the policy makers survive? If prohibition is socially not acceptable overnight then it should be controlled and curtailed by making it expensive and levying exorbitant duties on them instead of relaxing and tampering with regulations that were already in place. There should be stringent mechanisms like checking for an identity proof to ascertain age instead of selling across the counter in order to restrict minors from purchasing tobacco and alcohol. Levying heavy penalties and cancellation of licenses to those selling liquor and tobacco to minors could control this menace to great extents. The recent Gurgaon incident where 100 minors were caught in an organized sex alcohol party reveals the blatant violation of rules and an appalling ground reality of our existing laws and its implementation.
Since the implementation of this ban on direct advertising the liquor and tobacco companies have found a god father in the film industry and are resorting to surrogate advertising ways by placing their product in the hands of the hero or heroine who are often worshipped by the masses especially among illiterates.
The role of cinema in promoting alcoholism and tobacco:
Fashions are easily imitated from films into the society. Sporting hairstyles and trendy dresses inspired from Bollywood is an in thing failing which you are rejected among peers.
Young boys perceive holding a cigarette or dashing a beer mug exclaiming with a ‘cheers’ as a cool thing attributing it to style statement and a macho image. The aggressive marketing patterns of these liquor companies are vehemently targeting women. Lead actresses are depicted as smokers who are portrayed in films as independent, glamorous, modern and focus on equality with men by way of smoking making it a very elite corporate affair. Most movies in India show lead actors resorting to alcohol and cigarette as an outburst reaction in the event of stress or tension, but the reality is association of alcohol as a solution to stress and depression is completely a myth.
There are instances where Bollywood actors have confessed to being contacted by liquor industry to promote their products in movies. Aamir khan is one such actor who was contacted but had refused to endorse such products and practices. About 89% movies contain alcohol and tobacco scenes and 75% movies have lead characters endorsing them.
The funniest part is just before a smoking or booze scene comes up a disclaimer of statutory warning is displayed. What value does it add when 450 million people watching movies in this country are illiterates who cannot read or write?
In today’s scenario where the private education institutions are resorting to visual lessons to make the children understand better and improve standards the liquor companies are using these visual images with a lot of captivating dialogues for commercial gains making a dangerous impact on the minds of ignorant millions which is a grave concern. Such explicit selling of alcohol and tobacco in a disguised form is like offering a lucrative platter of poisonous food to a person totally unaware and ignorant of its dangers.
Some statistical info
80% of alcohol consumption is in the form of hard liquor or distilled spirits suggesting that the majority drink beverages with a high concentration of alcohol.
3 to 45 % of household expenditure is spent on alcohol. Use of alcohol increases indebtedness and reduces the ability to pay for food and education.
There has been an 8% increase in consumption every year.
Our politicians who make tall claims to improve the lives of the poor are unaffected by the growing violence and crimes against women both in domestic households and public life because of alcohol. In fact the Karnataka CM has gone a step ahead and announced a proposal to provide cheap liquor to the poor. These poor do not have basics like food and water how justified is the government’s approach in feeding them liquor. http://www.kemmannu.com/index.php?action=headlines&type=7216
We are languishing with age old problems of poverty, illiteracy, caste systems plagued by reservation policies based on castes which are further divisive and only reminds people of their castes, as if this was not enough we are embroiling the society with alcoholism, tomorrow there might be a gun culture and governing bodies might even pass a gun bill.
Can we change the game? Be a teetotaler and impress your peers. Don’t succumb to false notions just be yourself, make it fashionable to be a teetotaler.
See links below if you are concerned.