Vladimir Putin has declared war on alcohol and tobacco, pushing forward laws to restrict their usage and advertising. Who does he think he is? Michael Bloomberg?
Russia is known for its drinking and with good reason. The average Russian drank 77 liters of beer, 9 liters of spirits, and 7 liters of wine in 2011. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five Russian men die due to their alcohol use. Russia has the world’s fourth-highest alcohol consumption per capita and is the world’s second-largest market for alcohol.
Tobacco use is just as rampant. The WHO calculated that 39 percent of Russians smoke regularly. In Russia, smoking and drinking are responsible for the deaths of 900,000 people every year. The population of Russia is currently smaller than when the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
So far, Russia has last banned alcohol sales between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., drinking alcohol in public places, and beer advertising. On January 1, kiosks will no longer be allowed to sell beer. Taxes have been raised on alcoholic beverages and they will continue to rise.
A new anti-tobacco law will ban smoking in public places, tobacco advertising, and kiosk sales. There is also a plan to raise taxes on cigarettes until they cost as much as they do in Europe.
But the question still remains, how much will the measures actually accomplish?
The Health Ministry believe this will cut smoking levels in half and alcohol consumption has already fallen a substantial amount over the past two years. However, there are reasons to believe this may fail.
The last time a push was made this aggressively against alcohol by a Russian leader was Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. The campaign was a massive failure and completely eroded Gorbachev’s popularity to the point he was forced to end the campaign in 1988.
Furthermore, these restrictions may merely force Russians to seek out alternatives on the black market. Illegal vodka sales already account for 35 percent of the market. It is suspected that the new measures will make that number reach 60 percent by 2014.
So, will it work? I’m inclined to think not. I think it will make a dent in the drinking and smoking numbers, while not actually solving the problem. Then again, at least they aren’t outright banning these substances. That would be far more disastrous. They just need to calibrate their reform and regulations.
(h/t Guelph Mercury)