Chinese world’s third biggest drinkers

The Chinese are fast becoming the world’s biggest drinkers outpacing Brits, Americans and the Irish in terms of per capita consumption, new research has revealed.

Alcohol consumption in China has risen from an average of 4.9 litres per capita from 2003 to 2005, to 6.7 litres over the following five years, as reported in The Lancet based on data from the World Health Organisation.

However when you exclude non-drinkers, which make up 56% of the Chinese population, per capita consumption changes significantly rising to 15.1 litres of pure alcohol each year – higher than the UK, America and Ireland. The only countries that consume more alcohol per head than China are Tajikistan and Russia.

In comparison, consumption of alcohol by Brits fell from 11.9 to 10.9 litres per person between 2005 and 2010. When you remove the 16% of the population who abstain from alcohol this rises to 13.8 litres. For Ireland per capita consumption was 14.7 litres, Australia 14.5 litres, the US 13.3 litres, France 12.9 litres and Italy 9.9 litres.

“In the past three decades, along with rapid economic growth in China, there has been a striking increase in alcohol consumption, greater than in most other parts of the world”, the report said.

It added: “Given the dramatic increase in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related social and health problems in China, both policy attention and policy and cultural changes are needed. Although there had been Government mono polisation of alcohol in ancient China and in modern times since 1915, this ended during the 1980s, allowing uncontrolled expansion of production, without substantial attention to limiting adverse eff ects on public health. Re-establishment of a monopoly is one potential instrument for public health purposes, as is done for instance in several Nordic countries and Canada.”

The report also noted the effects of varying alcohol taxation in the country which it said had had “significant effects on the levels of alcohol-related mortality”, and should be considered an “effective means to reduce rates of alcohol-related health and social harms.”

Explaining, the report said: “Although European-style beer and wine have gained footholds, China is primarily a spirits-drinking country. In 2001, a volumetric tariff of ¥0·5 per 500 g or 500 mL was added onto the existing alcohol tax as a means of raising government revenues, leading to dramatic decrease in alcohol production and consumption after the tariff’s initial announcement in 2000. In 2006, the central government lowered the tax again on spirits, introducing a unified tax rate of 20% of the value. This resulted in a steep rise in alcohol consumption again.”

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