Although alcohol consumption has fallen in several countries such as France and Italy, alcohol consumption and the related problems have increased in many others. In particular, alcohol consumption seems to he increasing at a rapid pace in developing countries where drinking is a relatively new experience. As per capita incomes rise, trade barriers fall. and alcoholic beverages advance into new markets in developing countries, alcohol consumption is likely to increase. And while the causality between alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems (deaths), is less than clear, the number of problems and deaths attributable to alcohol consumption will surely rise if governments do not begin to implement balanced, preventive policies to mitigate the impact of these problems.
At a time when most countries are trying to foster the development of human capital, alcohol related problems impose an unnecessary burden. This burden may also be borne disproportionately by the less fortunate members of society, particularly the poor and young males. Although it is often difficult to design policies to change the behavior of these cohorts, the evidence on the efficacy of policy variables, such as tax rates, drunk driving regulations, driving age, and advertising bans on alcohol related problems is encouraging. Using these policy instruments, policy makers can effectively target these high risks groups with well designed policy interventions. Policy makers in developing countries, where many of these policies have not yet been implemented, thus have a baseline of policy options to consider in attempting to reduce the impact of alcohol-related problems within their respective countries.
One of the principal problems in evaluating the impact of alcohol-related problems in developing countries is the dearth of information on alcohol. Although alcohol consumption is generally included in household surveys, alcohol is rarely disaggregated into beer, wine, spirits, or other, and even less frequently analyzed. Future studies might examine household consumption by income group and attempt to assess the effect of consumption on morbidity and mortality within the household. Additional research is also needed on family budget decisions relating to alcohol consumption, the factors governing them and the ways in which the impact of spending on alcohol in "at risk" groups like children and the poor might be moderated.
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