KUALA LUMPUR, March 30: Malaysia's relatively small population of 26 million has not deterred it from being among the top ten nations in the world with the highest consumption of alcohol.
Backing her speech at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday with figures and statistics, Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (pic) said a total of RM1.75 bilion on liquor was spent by Malaysians.
"The sale of beer increases annually by 5 to 7 per cent, as compared to a population growth of 2.4 per cent, whereas the average age of alcohol consumption is 23 years," she said while debating the royal address.
Among teenagers especially those under eighteen, alcohol intake has increased to 45 per cent, with more youngsters being exposed to booze products at an early age. A research also found that 19 per cent of secondary school students admit to having consumed alcohol, while one per cent say they are habitual drinkers.
Siti Mariah attributed the trend to among others the wide availability of alcohol products at convenience shops.
She also said a 1993 survey among patients in Hospital Kuala Lumpur revealed that one-third of them are addicted to alcohol, adding that 30% of these are Malays.
Siti Mariah said the government, other than linking the problem with the Indian community, had not given any serious attention to find a solution.
She also said besides social ills and health issues linked to booze, the cost of treating alcohol-related diseases surpasses its profit.
"We always invoke Islam as the Federal religion, we call drugs as filth and we even send drug pushers to the gallows.
"But as for alcohol and nicotine in cigarettes, there seem to be a different treatment and they are available widely," she said.
She also questioned why booze could not be included among the Dangerous Drugs Act owing to its wide reaching effects on the people's lives.
Siti Mariah related that when she won the elections in Kota Raja, a group of low and middle-income Indians had approached her seeking help to curb the sale of beer and toddy at convenience stores. She said a pack of toddy only costs RM2-RM3.