The Excise Department has opened four control rooms in the district to intensify its drive against illegal brewing, stocking, and sale of liquor during this Christmas-New Year season.

Officials said mobile flying squads had been deployed to check smuggling of spirit through border areas. Excise enforcers have commenced regular inspections of bars and toddy shops to scientifically sample the liquor for the presence of spurious substances.

Enforcers said hoardings that indirectly promoted liquor products would be discouraged. The department has ordered its enforcers to remove surrogate advertisements found in the vicinity of educational institutions and places of worship.

The Excise Department said it would prosecute bar hotels that offered inducements, such as one measure of liquor free for every one bought, to consume liquor. It has instructed licensees not to serve liquor to those under the age of 18.

Bar hotels that operate more than one sales counter on the same premise would be prosecuted. The boards of bar hotels should not be illuminated and must confirm to the format set by the Excise Department.

It has also set up a system in place to monitor surrogate advertisements that appear on television. In order to circumvent the law, liquor and beer companies often lend the name of their popular brands to products such as apple juice, t-shirts, mineral water, soda, and cut glassware.

Surprisingly, such products that carry the trade name of the liquor brands were rarely available in the market. Liquor companies competed with each other to promote their brands through surrogate advertisements on television during the New Year season.

Liquor company salesmen often paid incentives to bar licensees and their staff to promote their brands by announcing incentives, such as one peg measure of liquor free for every two purchased. Enforcers said this was a violation of law and would be curbed.

The department has stepped up vigilance in coastal areas on the basis of information that contraband liquor was smuggled into the State through sea routes from Goa, which levied a lesser tax on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) products than that in Kerala, and transported to the hinterlands of the State through its maze of backwaters and inland waterways. Enforcers have also warned against brewing home-made wine, without a vinery license, for sale at fairs and through shops and confectionaries.