Blog: Abstention and illegal alcohol, all in a day's work

James Wilmore | 16 May 2014

A few facts jumped out at me while perusing the World Health Organization's 376-page(!) report on alcohol this week.

Before losing concentration and dreaming of a glass of something gold and cold, I was surprised to learn that a staggering 62% of the world's population (aged 15+) had not touched a drop of alcohol in 2010, when the study was done.

Apparently, women are "more often" lifetime abstainers than men. The report noted there was "considerable variation" in prevalence of abstention across WHO regions. Essentially, Western Europe and the US makes up for countries where consumption is low.

Meanwhile, a quarter of consumption (24.8%) was unrecorded, ie. "homemade alcohol, illegally produced or sold outside normal government controls". This is an issue drinks companies often talk about with particular regard to Africa.

With companies keen to convert drinkers to legitimate products, it's no wonder the opportunity in the continent is being talked up so fervently

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