Sun, Jan 03, 2010 - Page 11 News List

New Year price headache plagues Russian drinkers

REUTERS , MOSCOW

Minimum prices for vodka took effect in Russia on Friday as part of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s campaign to combat alcoholism at a time when Russians traditionally drink heavily during the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.

The price of the cheapest half-liter vodka bottle will nearly double to a new minimum of 89 roubles (US$2.95), according to the alcohol regulator’s Website, www.fsrar.ru.

In the run-up to the New Year festivities, Moscow’s supermarkets carried vast selections of vodka with luxury brands priced more than 10 times above the new minimum, although elsewhere the cheapest vodka could be bought for 51 roubles.

Russia’s lengthy New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays, lasting from Jan. 1 to 11, are traditionally marked by bumper alcohol consumption.

The government said the measures were aimed “to reduce the level of alcohol dependency of the population,” when it announced the plans on Nov. 19.

The average monthly salary of 18,702 roubles would have bought 368 bottles of the cheapest vodka available before the New Year in an online supermarket, but 210 bottles now.

Successive Russian and Soviet leaders have tried before to reduce the country’s drinking habit, with alcoholism blamed for the low life expectancy of Russian men. In 1985, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, declared a war on the traditional evil of alcohol abuse, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on public consumption of alcohol.

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