Russian governments have fought the country’s age-old culture of hard
drinking for more than a century. A 2011 global report by the World
Health Organization (WHO) on alcohol abuse cited Russia and its
neighbors as the hardest-drinking countries in the world. Now, provoked
partly by a rising tide of youthful beer binge drinking, the government
is cracking down on what it sees as an important public health issue.
Few observers think Russia’s newly emerging and increasingly
sophisticated fine wine scene was in the sights of the legislature, the
Duma, when it enacted the advertising ban last summer. Nonetheless, the
law, which took effect Jan. 1, has had an impact. It makes no
distinction between beer, wine and spirits. All advertisements are
banned in both traditional and online media, and state authorities have
warned the ban may be applied to the editorial content of wine
publications and newspaper wine columns.
“Wine is not one of the hit targets of the government … yet,” said
Spiros Malandrakis, an analyst of the global drinks markets for
Euromonitor International, a London-based market research firm. “They
mostly focus on hard liquor and beer, but the law makes no distinction.”
Beer in particular has been a sore point, and to stem the tide of its
growth among young people (Russia’s legal drinking age is 18), the
government in recent years has doubled excise taxes, limited hours of
sale and, as of January, outlawed sales from sidewalk kiosks.
According to WHO's 2011 study, the average Russian drinks the
equivalent of about 15.7 liters of pure alcohol per year—65 percent more
than in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of the alcohol consumed comes from
hard liquor, one third comes from beer and only 1 percent from wine.
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