Contrary to several reports which say that Kerala has the highest consumption rate when it comes to alcohol, the SRS baseline survey revealed that as of January 2014 Andhra Pradesh has the highest percentage of male drinkers in South India.
The finding is in fact in line with the National Sample Survey Officeâ€™s 2011-12 report which revealed that Andhra Pradesh consumed 34.5 litres per year while Kerala consumed 10.2 litres of alcohol per year.
According to the latest survey, Kerala comes second in liquor consumption among men followed by Telangana and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka has the least percentage of drinkers in the south. Significantly, the survey was carried out before the state governments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu decided to implement phased prohibition.
Data shows that across the southern states, men in the middle-age bracket of 45-59 are the biggest tipplers. The influence of alcohol amongst youngsters across the five South Indian states is limited. The youth between the ages of 15 to 29 consume less alcohol compared to other age groups. At 5.5 per cent youngsters in Andhra Pradesh consume the most alcohol compared to other South Indian states. Neighbouring Telangana comes next with 5.1 per cent.
Another key find is that men living in the rural areas largely consume more alcohol than their urban counterparts across the five states. However, in Andhra Pradesh, senior citizens (60+) living in urban centres drink more than men of the same age group in villages. In Kerala too, men between the ages of 45-59 living in cities and towns consume more alcohol than their counterparts in rural areas. The NSSO 2011-12 data, sourced by The Hindu, shows that Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka consume more beer, foreign liquor and wine compared to toddy and country liquor. However, Andhra Pradesh consumed more toddy and country liquor than beer, foreign liquor and wine.
Smoking is another big personal habit in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, with the two states having the highest percentage of smokers in South India. Karnataka also has a sizeable smoking population based on comparisons between respective age groups.
Significantly Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are also major contributors to India's tobacco industry. As of 2013, the two states contributed 263.55 million kilos to the total production of Flue Cured Virginia (FCV), which is the main exportable variety of tobacco in India. The NSSO 2011-2012 report states that India is predominantly a bidi-smoking nation, with the southern states all consuming more bidis than cigarettes.
Like alcohol consumption, data shows that across the five states, middle-aged men between the ages of 45 and 59 are the biggest smokers. The highest percentage of ex-smokers in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka is senior citizens.
Women and paan
The SRS baseline survey finds women are not only consuming less alcohol and smoking less compared to men but prefer chewing paan (with or without tobacco) to liquor and cigarettes.
In rural Karnataka for instance, 12.4 per cent women over 60 years of age chew paan and 7.9 per cent with tobacco. This is also the highest percentage among all women across states and age groups. By contrast, 2.7 per cent women in urban areas of Karnataka chew paan with tobacco.
On the other hand, there are no female paan chewers between 15-44 years in Telangana. It is also the only state where the percentage of women living in urban areas consuming paan with tobacco is nil. Further, in urban Telangana only women above the age of 60 smoke but that percentage is negligible at 0.1 per cent.
Interestingly, across states, it is women in the 60+ age bracket who are the biggest smokers, drinkers and paan chewers (with or without tobacco).
(Graphics by Akruti Rao)