Russia has had a long struggle with alcohol, from alarming statistics to a multitude of jokes that start with “Three Russians walk into a bar.” The good news is that the country has finally admitted that one of the factors contributing to alcohol consumption tripling in the past decade could be that they have been classifying beer as a food!
Initially marketed as a healthy alternative to drinking vodka, Beer is treated as a softer, almost non-alcoholic drink both socially and legally. According to the law, any beverage with less than 10% alcohol is classified as food, and can be sold without restrictions. Which means that you can buy it absolutely anywhere - workers can have a two-pint breakfast on the bus, and kids can buy it on their way to football coaching. This, coupled with low prices makes it the drink of choice for Russian 12 year olds.
The party is about to end though, because President Dimitri Medev has now signed a new law that reclassifies beer as an alcoholic drink. With it, come a whole new set of rules and advertising restrictions, the most important of which is that selling alcohol to minors will finally be punishable by a fine and subsequent jail time for repeat offenses.
But there’s no need for Russia’s 2 million registered alcoholics to go bottoms-up yet. The legislation will take effect only in 2013.
Image: Stephen Mackenzie