Teenage drinking up by 100% in 10 years

Study of 2,000 teens between ages of 15 and 19 reveals that they are hitting the bottle more than ever before; youngsters boozing in Mumbai second only to Delhi-NCR

Whether it is break-ups or boredom, loneliness or the whimsical urge to get a kick out of a dull day, world-weary teenagers of this day and age in this city and country seem to have found the cure-all: it lies at the bottom of a bottle.

Representational Picture

This isn't a what-is-the-world-coming-to harangue deploring the state of today's youth, but a conclusion reached by empirical data collated after studying over 2,000 teens in the age group of 15-19 years.

While excise and social justice departments are idealistically labouring over the state's de-addiction policy, a recent study by ASSOCHAM reveals that almost 45 per cent of 12th graders in metropolitan cities are downing pegs way beyond what their parents would like to know.

So much so that, in the course of the last 10 years, teenage drinking has escalated by a full 100 per cent. And we, as a nation, have become the most sought after market for alcoholic beverages companies.

Further, Mumbai is second only to Delhi-NCR in terms of liquor-consuming adolescents, followed by Chandigarh and Hyderabad, where more than 1 in 10 binge drink (consumes five or more drinks on one occasion). Also, the number of girls who like to drink it up trumps all figures in the recorded history of the country.

Not that teens today are noted for temperance and self-control, but if what the study predicts is true that alcohol consumption in India will cross 19,000 million litres by 2015 from the current 6,700 million litres perhaps we should ask what is driving the youth to guzzling.

"Teenaged boys and girls are resorting to drinking at a younger age due to high disposable incomes, lack of parental supervision, changing society norms and peer pressure," said D S Rawat, secretary general, ASSOCHAM.

Incidentally, half of these reasons coincide with those cited in news reports regarding the swell in youth suicide figures. "Most said they took to drinking to be at par with their peers.

As per the study, nearly 16% of teens started drinking before
they turned 15

Many others like the intoxication to sweep them away from mundane worries," Rawat said. The study states that the Indian palate has a predilection for hard liquor, and girls are as fond of drinking sprees as boys, also they prefer fruit-flavoured beverages.

Naveen Kotyankar, who runs a bar consulting firm, believes a marketing blitzkrieg plays its role in swaying suggestible teens.

"Association of liquor companies with sporting events like F1, IPL etc indirectly influences many young sports buffs. When their sports icon endorses a brand, they have got to try it. We can also see a shift from beer to whisky in the consumption pattern of youngsters."

The legal drinking age is 25 years for hard drinks (rum, gin, whisky and vodka) and 21 years for mild beer and wines. But does anyone care?

"Not the spoilt brats who frequent my bar," said a bartender at a five-star hotel. "Our enforcing system is too weak, and teenagers drink when they legally shouldn't be. We can't say anything because we cannot mess with the guest."

They clearly cannot. The study claims that India's alcoholic beverage market, comprising beer, wine and spirits, will cross Rs 1.4 lakh crore mark in 2015, from the current size of about Rs 50,700 crore. Drink to that.

Hard facts
>Almost 70 per cent alcohol in Southeast Asia is produced in India
>India's contribution in total alcohol beverage imports in the region is nearly 10 per cent.
>India is the largest consumer of whiskey � 80 per cent of the entire liquor market.
>Indian whiskey market, around Rs 40,500 crore, is expected to cross
Rs 54,000 crore mark within next two years

Did you know?

Kerala is the leading alcohol consumer, followed by Punjab

'Why we drink'
As per the ASSOCHAM study:
32% teens said they drink when they are upset
18% said they drink when they are alone
15% said they drink when they are bored
46% said they drink to get high

We have observed kids from the 12-15 age group who are addicted to liquor. Most of them are from high-income groups. One of the few reasons is lack of parental attention, fast life or access to Internet. In families where parents drink in front of their kids, the curiosity of tasting the drink leads to addiction. Many teenagers or kids are addicted to liquor. While girls are more prone to drugs and injections.
A counsellor, Muktangan De-addiction Center, Pune

Youth have adopted pub culture where they spend their weekends drinking and dancing. The earlier they start drinking, the more they tend to depend on alcohol, which will affect their performance at work or school. The age limit of 25 is good. Unfortunately, the policy is not strictly followed in our state.
Nilesh Shah, HOD, psychiatry department, Sion Hospital

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