Alcohol: Age Limit, Gender Limit, Class Limit…

Some of the comments in the last post pointed out that easy availability of liquor in some states could be the reason why these states have higher rates of violent crimes against women.

Domestic violence definitely increases with alcohol abuse. Nearly all my domestic helpers have had husbands who were not able to stick to regular jobs because they (sometimes as young as in their early twenties) were completely addicted to alcohol. Many started their days with a drink, many couldn’t eat but needed to drink, all were violent and the desperation for the next drink drove them to harm their families. These men’s dependence on alcohol generally destroyed all peace, happiness, health and hope in their families. [Read how here, here and here]

If there was one single thing that could change their lives, it would be without doubt de-addiction from alcohol (which is not much different from addiction to drugs I feel).

Also, is there any doubt that alcohol abuse leads to violence by men against other men, against women, against their own children, against family members and even against themselves?

But somebody who identifies themselves as Moral Police, sends me links to newer theories and latest research that show (amongst other things) that  alcohol consumption is more harmful when women are doing it.

…Researchers recruited 27 binge-drinking males and 13 females and gave them neurophsychological tests and “spatial working memory” tests to complete.”

…Male binge drinkers showed some, but less, abnormality as compared to male non-drinkers. This suggests that female teens may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of heavy alcohol use.”

 Moral Police would have approved of the outrage against drunk driver Nooria Haveliwala when she killed two and injured four when she lost control of her Honda CRV. Take a look at this comment delighting in a not-worth-linking article that claimed women needed to prove they could drink responsibly (unlike the rest of the world) before they could be allowed to drink.

The commenter seemed glad there were ‘tragic consequences’.

…women there want to ape men in their drinking habits, and don’t prefer a soft ladies’ drink as an alternative… When women drink, they are simply aping men, for they want to join the liberated class and be away from societal shackles – with tragic consequences.

Does it matter that the drunk driver was a woman? Another comment made much more sense,

“The question here is ‘Drunk driving’ pure and simple. Anyone who does it hopes to not get caught or killed or to kill someone. Little black dress, suit, dhoti, pajama etc are all irrelevant.”

Women aren’t the only ones who are seen as incapable of deciding what’s good for them. Bombay has raised the alcohol age from 21 to 25 – aiming to stop young adults from underage drinking. Is this restriction likely to be followed and respected? What are the chances that this would become one more way for the police to harass young Indian adults? (Remember Muthalik? And Constable Sunil More misusing the Obscenity law?)

I have no idea if these politicians are going to ensure the age limit is respected amongst the slums and villages where my domestic helpers live. Will younger men having to ask older friends to buy their drinks benefit the families mentioned above (here, here and here)? Does it look like the government is serious about tackling crimes related to alcohol abuse?

Should the government have a say in the legal drinking age, or should adult citizens be seen as capable of deciding when and how much to drink?

Why is drug addiction a crime but alcohol is not?

Related Posts:

Alcohol affects Husband – visionlightcolour

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36 thoughts on “Alcohol: Age Limit, Gender Limit, Class Limit…

  1. For the sake of clarity, here is a report on recent research findings :
    Teen girls’ brains hit harder by booze

    “The findings are similar to what generally has been found in adult alcoholics: while both men and women are adversely affected, women are often more vulnerable than men to deleterious effects on the brain”, Professor Tapert said.

    ”Long after a young person – middle school to college – enjoys recovery from a hangover, this study shows that risk to cognitive and brain functions endures,” Professor Sullivan said.

    The study said nearly three in 10 American teens in the final year of high school reported binge drinking in the past month.

    (I hope you won’t find this comment offensive. It don’t think it is)

    • No it isn’t offensive FA, but I would not advice teenage boys to drink more because booze hits their brains a little less harder. Responsible drinking (and responsible everything else too) is equally beneficial for all men and women.

      Edited to add: Formerly Anon do you think this change in alcohol age limit will help men in slums who are completely addicted and have lost their jobs and health?

      • How much alcohol a person can handle is directly proportional to the person’s weight. A thinner guy will be be able to hold less liquor than a fat guy- unless he practices a lot. So, these “studies” prove nothing.

        Such studies are usually nothing but random surveys which involve a few hundred people at most and they study the effect on them and proclaim that this is what will always happen. Since that is a ridiculous assumption, there are MANY such studies which often have contradictory solutions.

        And by weight, I mean boy mas, fat and a lot of other things. I can’t remember what it exactly was, but it has less to do with gender and more to do with weight and health of the person drinking. Example: A poor female in India will get drunk more easily than a poor guy, simply because the guy’s eating habits are better.

        And, I am sure even though you and other people who blindly believe such theories are so knowledgeable, you probably don’t know that drinking a lot of water and chocolate can lower the effects of intoxication when you are drunk, as long as you are not completely “gone.”

        Media lives to misguide.

        Though effects ARE worse on pregnant women. Again, there is no proof of this- there are so called studies, but no proof. Often, even women who are drug addicts give birth to perfectly healthy children. And by often I mean, usually. And statistics show so. Children in care of adoption agencies are less likely to be adopted when their mothers are addicts because of “beliefs” even when there is no evidence to substantiate their “findings.”

  2. In my opinion Govt cannot have a say, it has to be a individual choice. Article 47 of the Constitution states: “Government shall endeavour to bring about the prohibition of the consumption (of alcohol) except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks.”, but the reality is that Alcohol revenue is the second highest income for the govt, first being the sales tax (report published by CNN-IBN). Here in Sweden, alcohol is completely state owned. So they close the shops on weekends. The govt says it is to curb the consumption. In my opinion it is utter nonsense, because every friday I see people walking home with huge boxes and bags of alcohol, and guess who is accompanying them on this shopping, their kids. Increasing age limits or putting on timings doesn’t help. It has to be a individual choice rather than pressure from governments or elders. (excerpts from my untitled book)

  3. There was ban on liquor when NTR was chief minister of AP and people used to go to neighboring states just to consume liquor. When the govt changed here, many liquor licenses were given and now each and every lane in the city have liquor shops.To reduce the consumption of liquor these licenses should be cancelled.

    Recently four drunken men killed a person in front of the liquor shop which was caught on cctv in chennai and the murder was seen by everyone present on the road and no one did anything to save that man.

    A small village in medak district of AP is liquor free and who ever drinks liquor they have to pay the fine.Check the link http://www.hindu.com/2010/08/09/stories/2010080956560500.htm

  4. Almost all of the liquor business in India is controlled by political honchos. They would never want to impose restrictions on drinking age for a large part of the country.

    When they do place age restrictions like the one in Bombay, it is more to show that they are taming the yuppie urban youth. This is very similar to banning jeans in some places and prohibiting young people from holding hands or placing restrictions on partying. In a country where there is too much hype about morality (mostly bizarre and primitive), the government scores good marks in the general eyes of the public by attacking this young crowd. Rules like these are done mostly to divert attention from other issues that plague the nation.

    Just as the government cannot ask an individual to turn vegetarian, it should not be placing age rules for drinking. But, in no way, am I in favor of young people getting drunk and turning into uncontrolled freaks. I do agree that extreme alcoholism and violence go hand in hand. It is left to an individual to use his rights judiciously.

  5. Hey IHM, Before I comment I just want to tell how brilliantly you put your thoughts into words. I and my sister are hooked to your blog.

    I being a Liberal, support the notion of an individuals right to choose, unless and until it infringes on somebody else’s personal liberty. Well I am not sure how banning alcohol Will lead to a reduced crime rate, because as per my knowledge It will go underground and alcohol trading would begin to be handled by goons and underworld, Which seems to me a horrifying idea. As for the poor people, the alcohol available to them is of very low quality and a dunkard is very capable of unleashing violence when he’s forced to leave alcohol without proper psychological and medical treatment, guidance and support system. Domestic violence, In India is more of an outcome of a patriarchal system,where in both the men and women involved more often than not condone it. However I do agree that alcohol does act a catalyst in such cases. But banning it still does not seem to me like a good idea. There is a difference between addiction and drinking in moderate quantities. Excess of anything is bad.

    My Sister and I drink occasionally and very responsibly. There are proper ways to consume alcohol if one chooses to. What to me seems like an answer is proper regulation of alcohol trade, Better Policing to keep a check on drunk driving or any other form of vandalism and harassment, Educating people about Proper and responsible consumption of alcohol, Its cons and pros, how it can make someone vulnerable in certain situations and establishments of rehabilitation centres in India.

    More teens try out alcohol out of curiosity, I did so I know, But the difference lies in the factor that I could talk with my parents about how I tried alcohol(I was 18 when I did) and they were not judgmental, they recognized that It was normal of me to get curious about things that are considered taboo and try them out and told me that If I wish to drink, I might as well do it in my parents presence and drink only occasionally and responsibly ( not more than one glass of alcohol). When my sister turned 21 my dad asked her if she would like to try out alcohol. She said yes and tried it out in the presence of my dad. My dad only told her that now that she’s an adult, she can make her choices but should always remain responsible for her own safety as well as the safety of people around her. Both of us were informed by our parents well in advance before we turned 18 about the social and health hazards that addiction or excess of alcohol could cause. They also told us about how consuming alcohol (only one small glass of alcohol) with food (that has lower calories) is way better than consuming it empty stomach.

    I think this approach of theirs did wonders for us. It turned us into responsible adults who choose to drink but not harm anybody.

    Regarding the research regarding how women are able to absorb alcohol lesser(making them more prone to a certain health hazard) than men comparatively is true and that is why in other countries the norms are like 2-3 drinks for women and 4-5 for men. But each individual’s propensity to drink differs and like you said in one of your comments It is not about Gender, or who can drink more..It is solely about drinking responsibly(if one chooses to), be it a woman or a man.

    • I loved your comment! I too feel this is exactly how parents should introduce their kids to alcohol….inform, accept, respect.

      On reading the part where your Dad introduced you and your sister to alcohol I was imagining the reactions of people…like my mother…they would be aghast! A Dad ruining his kids!

      When I was younger, in school, i remember asking my mother what a ‘bar’ is…what is served there? and my mother said “chee chee bahut gandi cheez hoti hai…bahut gande log jate hain wahan…hamare jaise achi family ke log ye sab nahi peete”. I was too young to articulate my thoughts then…but her answer stayed with me and when ever I think of it, I take a vow that I will never answer my daughter’s question in such a manner…but will inform her they way your dad did and respect her decisions.

      Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, teen pregnancies…or anything…i think it all boils down to our upbringing. The conditioning can be changed (i did it :)) but it take time and effort…to say the least.

    • Your father sounds so much like mine! He poured my first beer and gave me information and choice. He told my sisters and me to try the first time at home in case of any adverse reactions. I have seen both my father and mother share a beer on occasion and never saw them drunk. I drink once in a while and know my limits too.

  6. Honestly I find the “raising age limits” offensive and demeaning. People need to have the right to decide how much and when. They also need to suffer consequences if things go out of hand – whether it is a man or woman. 25 as age limit makes me snigger. One gets alcohol easily at any age. And in any case the govt has never been good at implementing bans.

    Besides, you can be married, vote and have babies before 25 … so why are we considered capable of deciding the government, or being parents before 25 okay and not have a glass of booze?

  7. Banning anything is not the answer. Whose responsibility is it to drink? Okay, so someone does take that call and gets into the pit of addiction - de-addiction is something that still is the individual’s responsibility with help from others.

    It is like banning sex before marriage. Or having an age limit for when people can have sex. It is unlikely to be followed. It is not enforceable consistently. And it moves the problem underground. We’ll have people going to quacks for abortions and dying like that young woman in a previous blog post.

    The more we treat people like nincompoops, the more’s the incentive to prove us right!

  8. There’s a difference between alcohol and drugs in terms of how easy it is to get addicted and how quickly each can kill you. However, the main reason behind alcohol not being banned is simple: revenues. Excise, taxes, bribes, there’s an entire eco-system that revolves around alcohol (and smoking).

    What we need though, is not stricter laws but stricter enforcement. Who verifies the drinking age? Who clamps down on drunk driving? What’s the going rate for a human life in India? The government values it at about 2 lakhs if it’s a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Why should an alcohol related death be worth any more?

    The link between alcohol and domestic violence is well established but I don’t think that should be the reason to ban alcohol. Instead, the solution should be the same as in all other cases of abuse: make it easier for the person being abused to walk out of the relationship.

    Finally, we need better help for those dependent on alcohol. It’s another of our society’s shove-under-the-carpet issues and there’s no help available for anyone who suffers from dependence/addiction and would like to quit. Banning is the easier solution. But it’s neither viable nor sustainable.

  9. People will always get addicted to alcohol..No matter what they do and where they live..They are hard wired for that..Nothing can change people from not drinking and driving….

    So the government is wasting time and money in setting up this ban. But then, the government will run only if it does such things!

    Else, what is the government there for? LOL..

  10. Honestly, I do not think bans work. What works is stricter laws for offenders / criminals that actually are applied in a timely manner. Where I live, alcohol is very freely available to anyone above the age of 21 and there are much more cars here than on the Indian streets. Then why is the accident rate lower here? Because, once you commit an accident you pay a very hefty fine.Your DL is revoked. If you were found drunk, you get charges of DUI placed against you. Which means much more than just jail time or fine. It means:
    1. Your auto insurance rates will sky rocket for the next 7 years
    2. Your background verification records get a felony registered for drunk driving. Which means that it will be pretty much impossible for you to find a job with a decent company.
    3. No DL means your life is hell are there are no affordable auto rickshaws etc.

    While we are a free society and the burden of decision should rest with individuals, a proper legal system will put fear in the most patriarchal of minds about abusing alcohol or anything else for that matter.

    • Wow!! Well said Clueless!! having a strict administrative and legal system in place is the most plausible answer to all such SOCIAL issues.
      Once the offences start reflecting in peoples credentials and background checks and start having a strong impact on the offender’s careers, financial status and most of all social status (highly important for our social image crazed countryfolks) the improvement in foloowing of civic duties and social behavious would become imperative.

      The question is..is this idea realistic in our corruption laden system??

  11. Because Gujarat is a dry state and many felt the cities are safer there, it seems logical to connect the two. No alcohol=safety. But I don’t see this equation borne out in other cities. Andhra was a dry state too, and I don’t think Hyderabad was any safer during that time than it is now. Also, even when it was a dry state people were still drinking, just that they had to go to some loopholes to get alcohol. The affluent used to get it through the army quotas I think, and the poor through bootleggers and home-breweries. In fact, banning alcohol only creates an illicit trade that can be a health hazard because there are no controls on how that hooch is produced.

    Bombay was also a dry state and I don’t think safety improved. The North East states are not dry states but safety is high there too, according to the comments on your previous posts. So I think there are other factors at work in Gujarat and the North East that make them safer for women.

    Hong Kong is an extremely safe city and alcohol is freely available, they even scrapped the import duty on wine a couple of years ago. The difference is that laws are strictly enforced. People who know they are going to be drinking heavily avoid taking their cars out. It helps greatly that public transport is efficient and that you can take a cab home safely and for a reasonable sum at any time of night. So why risk driving drunk?

    In India, there isn’t much social stigma against drunk driving etc. Old and young, people get into thier cars inebriated and noone bats an eyelid. But after a spate of bad accidents (the Nooria case was not the first by far) the police have started clamping down and now I see this attitude changing in Bombay. Again it helps that the private call cabs are quite reliable.

    Using the Nooria case as an example of how women should not drink reminds me of how every time a law seeking to protect women is misused, there is a big hue and cry. Nevermind that laws in general are abused every day by men and women alike. Somehow a woman transgressing is the bigger sin and requires greater sanction. The fact is that before Nooria there were a number of equally horrific drunkdriving cases, all of them involving young men.

    The first study you cited about women and drinking seemed very sketchy and the one cited by Anonymous was relevant to only teenage girls. So even if you generalise the findings to non-Caucasians, should we disregard the results once the girls are no longer teenagers? Either way, how does it matter if women have less capacity to drink than men? Why should that mean they should not drink alcohol at all? Everyone needs to know their own limits. Chinese people also apparently have less tolerance for alcohol than westerners – does this mean all Chinese should be banned from drinking?

  12. Alcohol affects women, in a worse manner than men, is that I have read in many places and therefore have come to believe it. But this simply does not mean, that men have more freedom to drink and women have lesser of it. I feel, both should try to avoid it (or at least limit it) for ethical, moral reasons. Plus, The one’s who get addicted to this, have no way to know it in advance that there are at a risk for alcohol addiction (as far as I know it).

  13. //……de-addiction from alcohol (which is not much different from addiction to drugs I feel).//
    Exactly my sentiments.That is why I worry when young adults/teenagers(above 18yrs of age) party with alcohol freely flowing).I also agree that we can tell them about responsible drinking and leave the decision to them but at the same time do feel and have observed that many young adults are overdoing the drinking bit.Drunk -driving related accidents involving young adults are on the rise..A psychologist friend narrates more alcohol addiction
    cases than drug addiction as drugs are illegal and average YA fears drugs and their side effects but does not think alcohol can be addicting.The overconfidence of being able overcome drinking problem leads to alcoholism.Sad but true.
    Gender issue in this …??Ridiculous!

  14. I have been to countries with a drinking culture but very little drunk driving accidents or domestic violence – the Scandinavian countries, Singapore, Hong Kong. It comes down to how strictly penalties are imposed to prevent this kind of behaviour. I see this, though to a limited extent, happening in India too.

    In Bangalore, police checks are very common. The police are around stopping young people to check their breath – not just on Friday and Saturday night, but on weekday nights too. In the last one year, we have been stopped for alcohol checks atleast 1-2 times each month, probably more. I have noticed that most of the people I know, when they know they are going to be drinking heavily, either arrange for a cab beforehand, or have a designated driver who is going to stay sober.

    In contrast, in Hyderabad, most people I know aren’t in the least bothered by the police, and happily stagger into their cars after a night of drinking. My friends have done this, despite my protests. Two of my friends have had accidents in the last 6 months because of drunk driving (“Serves you right” was my reaction). It’s because (a) there are no police checks for drunk driving (b) and even if the police do check, you know you can get away by paying 50 bucks.

    Banning alcohol isn’t really the solution. Enforcing legal penalties on alcohol induced actions should be strengthened.

  15. Effects of alcohol is definitely more on women on a mg to mg basis. ‘(Lucky’ as less strain on the purse for same effect!) Unfortunately even smaller doses are seen to produce more Liver and Brain toxicity compared to men. This is due less Body water in women and a 30% increased absorbtion from GI tract. So women should always have some food in their stomach when they start drinking.
    Here are some useful links.

    http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm.
    http://oade.nd.edu/educate-yourself-alcohol/alcohol-and-women-critical-information/differences-between-men-and-women/
    Increasing the age for drinking to above 25 was not done after any scientific study and is unwarranted.
    Alcohol is not a banned substance. That is why alcoholism is not a crime.
    Mild to moderate drinking has some cardiac benefits in Caucasian men and Women, but unfortunately not proven in Indians.
    http://malayalidoc.blogspot.com/2010/03/is-alcohol-good-or-bad-for-heart.html
    This may be due to the stigma resulting in binge drinking.

  16. Addiction is not a crime–whether it’s to drugs, alcohol, chocolate, etc. Beating up your wife is a crime, driving drunk is a crime, and taking a 1000 rupee bribe to let a drunk driver keep on driving is also a crime. The government should not have the right to tell you what you can or cannot do to yourself as long as you’re not harming someone else.

    I find the drinking age ridiculously high in Mumbai and Delhi (I also find the drinking age ridiculous in the US). I agree with Ramya above that strict legal penalties is the only solution. However, the police [who are probably underpaid] are happy to take a thousand bucks and let the perpatator off the hook.

  17. Dear God, if I am smart enough to chose a career, husband and what to do with my life I am sure I can decide what’s harmful for me and what’s not….We do not need a research to tell us that.

  18. Here are some random thoughts that struck me after reading your post.

    Consumption of excess alcohol is injurious to one’s health.

    Consumption of alcohol in moderate quantities makes life more enjoyable.

    Alcohol can be addictive

    Often people start by being moderate drinkers, enjoy their life and later get addicted and ruin their life.
    In many instances, starting to drink is a stepping stone to becoming a hard drinker later.

    No one has ever been prevented from enjoying life by not drinking alcohol.
    Ask me, I should know.
    I am a teetotaler and have been one all my life and have found so many ways to enjoy my life.
    I tolerate moderate drinking by others and refuse to join them when invited.
    I am willing to risk a friendship with a person who drinks if my not joining him is an issue for him.
    So far I have not lost a single friend because of this attitude of mine.
    May be I have not got closer in friendship to some persons because of this attitude of mine.
    They leave me alone and don’t invite me to parties where drinks flow freely.
    I am perfectly okay with this.

    I know friends who drink and who have backed me up on my stand on this issue.
    They have agreed that the best way to be out of the clutches of alcohol is never to have started in the first place, like me. I know persons who pull my leg and tease me in public at my goody goody habits but secretly admit that they wish they had not started as they found it was very difficult to give up once you get hooked to it.

    I openly advocate and recommend never to start drinking.
    Money can be saved for more constructive use.
    Health improves.

    But should a government legislate on this?
    No. Gujarat may have had partial success but that is due to support and cooperation from the majority of the population themselves.
    Other states will fail if they try to introduce a ban on alcohol as the people will not cooperate.
    Any efforts from the Government will fail, and invite further problems, as past experience has proved.
    So in my opinion, NGOs, religious organisations and leaders, preachers, social workers must keep up the pressure against drinking and hope for the best.

    I agree with people who suggest that tightening laws against driving after drinking, and bigger fines for improper behaviour after drinking, constant counseling and restricting advertisements promoting drinking are the only things we can do, practically, and hope the people will listen and act wisely. I am also in favour of making the granting of a divorce easier to a woman who is a victim of her husbands addiction to alcohol.
    I always welcome any budget where drinking and smoking becomes more expensive.

    I cannot appreciate age related bans on drinking.
    If drinking is bad at 18, it continues to be bad at 25.

    The gender related bans are also ridiculous.
    If drinking is bad for men, it is equally bad for women.
    The only time I feel women smoking or drinking is worse than men drinking is when the woman is pregnant.
    I feel an innocent unborn is possibly being harmed when a woman smokes or drinks.
    I am not a medical expert and am willing to be enlightened on this issue.

    I am willing to believe that alcohol affects different persons differently.
    Some can hold their drink, others lose control starting from the third peg.
    But this depends on the chemistry of the individual body and not gender or age.

    In answer to your question, I don’t feel that any government will be serious about controlling the consumption of alcohol and also smoking. They generate revenue in quantities too tempting to be ignored.
    Besides these habits (of smoking and drinking) have been around for centuries and can’t be wished away.

    Besides, banning drinking can’t be defended legally in a court of law just because it is bad for society’s health.
    When chewing tobacco, eating junk food is not banned, drinking too can’t be banned.
    However, a small step can be taken.
    It can perhaps be debated if getting completely drunk in a public place should be declared illegal!
    That may possibly stop the over indulgers.

    Regards
    GV

  19. ” Does it look like the government is serious about tackling crimes related to alcohol abuse?”
    Really IHM. Is govt serious about anything at all? About terrorism? About child labor? About corruption? Tackling crimes related to Alchohol abuse is way down in priority list.
    I guess the way to reduce alchohol addiction is to make it really expensive. And to punish heavliy for crimes assosiated with it. Like drunk driving. Or drunk violence. etc.
    But I guess this is hardly on govts. radar.

  20. Reigning in serves no purpose. The two countries where I’v lived in most – Japan and the Netherlands with very liberal alcohol and prostitution laws. Everybody is free to practice whatever they choose for themselves and people remain indifferent.

    Drugs are sold in every street corner by name of coffee houses in Amsterdam. And yet, these places are the safest for men or women alike anytime in the day or night.The official crime rates are remarkably low as well.

    By not liberating or legalizing India has just helped mafia dons, thugs, politicians and police run a Trillion dollar undercover industry of sleaze and narcotics.

  21. I find the entire ban this, ban that kind of immature. Didn’t we read about basic psychology when we were kids – all that is forbidden instantly becomes more alluring? That doesn’t mean I am implying bans should be lifted and age limits circumvented. But I see no sense in the hoopla ho about adding and subtracting a year up and down the limit when it comes to alcohol. Someone who won’t drink will not and someone who will, will.
    Coming to abuse cases of course, there is much that needs to be done. It would be great if they’d be come up with some steps to reduce these ‘accidents’ rather than mull for ages on setting an age limit.

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