KATHMANDU, April 22: Alcohol has been a part of our cultures for a long time. Many ethnic communities in the country drink to celebrate as well as to mourn.
The booming restaurant businesses and the sprouting of bars show that it has now become a part of our lifestyle, at least in the Valley.
“To drink has become like a trend in Nepal and the youth are no exception to it,” said Jhanahari Bhattarai, Alcohol, Drugs and Development - Program Officer at Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN, Nepal), adding, “Young boys and girls start drinking and smoking because they are under constant peer pressure.”
He also stated that to show off as the ‘stronger one’ among ones friends, young ones smoke and drink.
Compared to a survey conducted in 1998, among 277 urban youths in age group of 18 to 23 in five colleges of Kathmandu, it was found that 63.5 percent had experienced alcohol at some point in their lives.
Among them, 61 percent had their first taste of alcohol before the age of 15. Among those, 11 percent reported drinking regularly while 23 percent drank frequently and 58 percent did so occasionally.
When compared to a data collected in 2001 from a total of 426 children and youths, the overall prevalence among children aged 10-17 is 17.4 percent and 27.2 per cent for lifetime use. Among them, only 9.2 per cent reported drinking in the last 30 days, most of them 1 to 5 times.
“The number of young people drinking has definitely increased over the years but we cannot exactly pinpoint this at the moment,” said Bhattarai.
Saliendra Koirala, Manager of Degaa Restro Lounge located in Kumaripati says,“I think the number of young people drinking have definitely increased in the last five years.”
He also added that the trend of drinking after work but before 8pm is also increasing. “Young people who work nowadays are mostly following this routine to escape the regular Police checking’s at night,” he added.
He also informed that Degaa Restro Lounge follows the norm of not serving under-age population with alcohol.
“Sometimes there are students in school and college uniforms, to whom we do not serve alcohol and we tell them that but when they are not in uniforms, it’s hard to guess the age,” informed Koirala, who has been working in the restaurant sector for the past one decade.
To curb the drinking habit of the youth, and adults alike, Nepal Alcohol Policy Alliance has already submitted a memorandum to the Health Minister.
“I have already prepared Terms and Reference for the policies to be launched by the government and a task force team is soon to be formed,” informed Bhattarai, who is also the secretary at Nepal Alcohol Policy Alliance.
He also added that the policies, when it’s brought in, have to be strictly implemented by the government.
Adverse effects of alcohol promotion
When it comes to advertising, alcohol ads have been banned on electronic media, specifically national radio, television, and private FM stations. However, print media and public boards continue to publicize the product.
The alcohol manufacturers also promote or indirectly advertise through public events such as sports, music, and cultural festivals.
According to the Child Act 1992, Provision 16, prohibits the use of children in selling alcohol, drugs, and other illegal substances. Similarly, Hotel Regulations and the Sale and Distribution of Alcohol Act, 2023, Section 7, has a provision on prohibition of selling and servicing alcohol to children under 16 years and persons intoxicated with alcohol and a Bill passed in June 2000 bans the sale of alcohol to minors (under 16) and bans production and sale of the plastic pouch liquor, a low quality alcohol often consumed by young people because of its convenient size and cheap price.
However, indirect advertisement by alcohol companies directly affects the young ones drinking habit. These acts, however, are not being acted upon and young ones, still at large, can buy alcohol products freely without having the furnish age identification card.
“We are hoping that the new policy will address the issue of advertisement too because, even though ads might help in revenue of a certain business, it’s harmful to the community and the government needs to put a stop to it,” said Bhattarai.
Drinking and driving
As of March, 2012, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) has been punishing at least 200 people on an average every night over drink-driving. The MPTD took action against 1,353 people in December, 2,831 people in January and 5,504 people in February alone for drinking and driving.
Likewise, 3,383 people were punished from March 1 to March 12. The MPTD have collected more than Rs 10 million as revenue from those who were slapped fines.
The legal system of Nepal doesn’t allow drinking and driving and Clause 142 under vehicle and transport management act 2049 prohibits drinking alcohol or any kind of drugs while driving.
Spokesperson for the Nepal Police, DIG Binod Singh, informed that youth, mostly aged 18 to 28, drink and drive more. “Young people mostly drink during the weekend time but adults are more careful these days,” he said.
“We have also stopped detaining people over night. Instead, a chit is produced and the fine for that is Rs 1,000. However, if the driver is found incapable of driving, the vehicle will be seized,” informed DIG Singh.
Each offence is logged in the computer and in case of five consecutive office, denoted by punching, the driver’s license is suspended for a certain time. Previously, the Police detained people over night and released them in the morning.
“The only way to control the youth from drinking is to have strict policies, acts and laws, which should be implemented,” said Bhattarai.
He was also of the thought that parents should teach or talk to their kids about the negative effects of alcohol and that schools, also, should start talking about it.