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Punjab hoteliers want legal drinking age down to 18 from current 25



CHANDIGARH: The Punjab hospitality industry has sought an amendment in the Punjab Intoxicants Licence and Sales Orders, 1956, to bring down the legal drinking age from 25 years to 18 years.

The industry is seeking this with an eye on the 18-25 age group -17% of the state’s population – to spur liquor sales.
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Like Punjab, the legal drinking age in Meghalaya, Delhi, Maharashtra (hard liquor), Haryana and Chandigarh is 25 years while in Sikkim, Puducherry, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Goa it is 18 years. There are 13 states where the legal drinking age is 21 years.

Of Punjab’s total population of 2.12 crore, 37.24 lakh fall in the 18-25 age group.

Hotel, Restaurant and Resort Association (HRRA), Punjab, has written to Punjab chief minister for reducing the legal drinking age to 18 years, bringing it at par with Goa and other states. The association has contended that higher drinking age in Punjab is creating a disparity as well as adversely affecting their business and tourism.

The association’s Punjab president, Satish Arora, argued that when a person can vote and hold a driving licence on turning 18 years old, why the bar on consuming liquor. “Tourists below the age of 25 years coming from other states raise objections over not being served liquor. We find is hard to convince them,” rued Arora.

As per the laid-down norms, a licensee cannot sell liquor to a person below the age of 25, and is liable to be prosecuted and his licence suspended on flouting rules.

HRRA alleged that the existing age limit is being used by excise department and police as a tool to harass hoteliers. In their letter to the CM, hoteliers cited a recent incident where officials of excise and police allegedly forced their way into a Bathinda hotel, lodged an FIR and took a girl into custody.

The issue of what should be the legal age to permit purchase and consumption of alcohol has been a subject of debate in India among parents, politicians, academics and hoteliers for long.

Dr Ajeet Sidana, associate professor at the department of psychiatry at Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, feels that reduction of age limit will not be a wise decision. “If you give opportunity to consume alcohol at a little early age, there are chances of the person getting dependent on alcohol as compared to someone who starts at a later stage,” said Dr Sidana.

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