By: Our Correspondent


A succession of Chinese dynasties attempted to ban alcohol consumption at least 40 times in the 2500 years between 1100 BC and 1400 AD before finally giving up, an indication of how difficult it is to stop drinkers from drinking, according to an exhaustive 240-page report by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

China is hardly alone, according to the report, titled ‘Tackling Harmful Alcohol Abuse,” released on May 13 by the 34-country organization, although it was found that some people of Asian origin tend to drink less “since genetic predispositions may increase unpleasant effects like facial flushing and other symptoms.”

That doesn’t appear to include China. Driven by quickly increasing wealth, China is learning to drink. The April issue of The Lancet Global Health indicated that social and health issues related to alcohol use and misuse, such as liver and cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, cancers, violence, and transport and unintentional injuries, are growing and have been largely neglected by the Chinese government.

While more than half of the Chinese population aged 15 years and older do not drink at all,  42 percent of men and 71 percent of women in 2010  who do drink averaged 15.1 liters of pure alcohol annually against a far lower 9.1 liter average for the rest of the OECD.  

Archeological evidence shows alcohol was being brewed 10,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, probably mixtures of fruit wine and fermented honey. That was 4,000 years before Adam and Eve got to Paradise, according to the Christians. There is no record that they got drunk, although apparently the first thing Noah did when he and his ark heaved up on dry land was to plant a vineyard, according to the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

Despite the fact that it has been around for 10,000 years, there isn’t a lot of evidence that it has done anybody much good, according to the report, other than providing a lucrative method of funding for governments that run distilleries and breweries and charge outlandish taxes. In just the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, harmful consumption of alcohol rose from the eight leading cause of death and disability to fifth.

While alcohol use has both beneficial and detrimental effects on the health of individual drinkers., “the latter outweigh the former in all countries, the researchers found.  “Approximately four in five drinkers would reduce their risk of death from any cause if they cut their alcohol intake by one unit (10 grams) per week.”