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To curb drinking, Russia hikes vodka prices

Associated Press / January 2, 2010

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MOSCOW - The price of the cheapest vodka on the Russian market more than doubled yesterday as the government set a minimum price in an effort to fight rampant alcoholism.

Drinking causes an extraordinary number of deaths in Russia, where male life expectancy is about 60 years, and it contributes to an array of economic and social problems.

The minimum price of $3 for a half-liter of vodka went into effect at the start of the 12-day New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas holiday, when alcohol consumption is at its highest.

Russia has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world, the equivalent of 18 liters of pure alcohol for every man, woman, and child per year.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who has publicly decried Russia’s drinking problem and its effect on the nation’s well being, has ordered a series of measures aimed at reducing sales.

Past efforts to limit vodka sales have led to increased production of unregulated or homemade vodka, which even now is estimated to make up nearly half of all vodka consumed.

A study published last year in The Lancet medical journal said drinking has caused more than half of the deaths among Russians aged 15 to 54 since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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