By Miranda La Rose
July 27 2015 – newsday.co.tt
TRINIDAD and Tobago and two other CARICOM countries were identified in a Pan American/World Health Organisation report on alcohol use as having the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the Americas, and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan says it may be linked to the culture of Carnival.
Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis were also identified in PAHO/WHO first Regional Status Report on Alcohol and Health in the Americas, which also warned that harmful use of alcohol increases in the Americas over 2005 to 2010.
“These things may be linked to the culture of Carnival, which is the culture of drinking, Khan told Newsday in a recent interview. “We do have a problem and we are working with it,” he said noting that the Ministry of Health STEPS programme towards a healthier TT showed that teenage alcohol use has increased along with Non Communicable Diseases.
The ministry, he said, was in the process of formulating a national alcohol policy to cover education on the negative effects of alcohol consumption and advertising of alcoholic beverages.
“If you have stringent action on teenage drinking and high education campaign about the negative effects of alcohol targeting peer pressure more than anything else,” he said, there will be positive results.
“A lot of young people drink because of peer pressure and then it transfers to adult and addictive drinking,” he said. Alcohol distributors and manufacturers, he said, use young persons with friendly faces to give the marketing push to make alcohol look attractive. The PAHO/WHO report has recommended that countries limit availability, restrict marketing and increase taxes on alcohol.
It has recommended minimum age requirement for the purchase, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages; restrictions on where and when alcoholic beverages may be sold; and comprehensive regulation of alcohol marketing.
The report said that apart from the three CARICOM countries, Paraguay and Venezuela also “had the highest rates of harmful alcohol consumption in the Americas” for the five year period.
“The region has been paying a high cost in terms of health, financial resources, and productivity, and these costs will continue to increase if effective measures are not immediately adopted to help promote, protect and improve the health and well-being of people over commercial interests,” PAHO/WHO Director, Department of Non Communicable Diseases and Mental Health.
PAHO/WHO noted that about one in five or 22 percent of current drinkers engage in “heavy episodic drinking” which is higher than the global average of 16 percent.
The region also has on average, the second highest per capita consumption of alcohol after Europe, and an estimated six percent of the region’s population suffers from an alcohol use disorder, PAHO said.
In 2012, PAHO said, alcohol contributed to the deaths of over 300,000 persons.
Alcohol use contributes to over 200 diseases and injuries including cirrhosis of the liver and some types of cancer.