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Russian Cities Mull One-Day-a-Week Alcohol Ban

Moscow and St. Petersburg are toying with the idea of banning alcohol sales one day a week in an attempt to curb alcoholism.

Andrei Anokhin, a legislator in St. Petersburg, announced the city council might ban alcohol sales every Wednesday. Reports stated that Alexei Mishin, a lawmaker in Moscow, echoed Anokhin’s sentiments, but Mishin quickly denied them. He said he “only suggested an ‘abstinence day’ would be more appropriate on Friday.” Anokhin decided on Wednesday since it is the middle of the work week when “people should be focused on their jobs, school and home life.” The day is also a “day of fasting” for the Russian Orthodox.

But the idea stuck with others in Moscow, especially consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor.

“Absolutely, we supported this idea,” exclaimed Anna Popova, the head of the agency. “And we will support it until it’s adopted.”

Alcoholism rates were higher during the Soviet Union but did not ease entirely after the fall. The agency discovered that “[O]ne in three teenage boys and 20% of teenage girls drink alcoholic beverages at least every other day.” The country ranks 153rd in life expectancy with women averaging 70 years and men 64 years.

“The task of prevention of alcohol addiction is coming to the fore in Russia, where about 500,000 alcohol-related deaths are reported a year,” stated the group. “Some experts put the number of alcohol addicts in Russia at about 5 million, or 3.5% of the entire population.”

Both Moscow and St. Petersburg have laws that do not allow sales to occur from 11PM to 8AM and do not allow “drinking in public venues.”

In September, Anton Belyakov, member of parliament’s upper house, “submitted a bill” to make 21 the legal drinking age, instead of 18. The government has not scheduled a day to discuss or vote on the bill.

“Limiting alcohol sales won’t have a 100 percent effect without a comprehensive ban in other regions,” said Dmitry Chugunov, a member of the Public Chamber, agreeing with a Friday alcohol ban.

However, he said the ban “should go even further” since most people from Moscow “head to dachas outside the city limits” on Friday.

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 30 percent of deaths “in Russia in 2012 were attributable to alcohol.” Estonia held second place with 21 percent. But some “policy changes” in 2006 lowered these numbers after the fall of the Soviet Union. Another study found that 25 percent of “Russian men die before they are 55, and most of the deaths are down to alcohol.”

Alcohol consumption dropped in 1985 after then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev did not allow anyone to sell vodka before lunch. But when it fell in 1991, people turned back to alcohol.

“When President Yeltsin took over from President Gorbachev, the overall death rates in young men more than doubled,” explained Professor Sir Richard Peto at University of Oxford. “This was as society collapsed and vodka became much more freely available. There was a huge increase in drinking and they were drinking in a destructive way. They were getting drunk on spirits and then buying and drinking more, producing a big risk of death.”

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