Russia raises minimum vodka prices

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Russian government has raised the minimum price for vodka in an effort to combat alcoholism. The new minimum price for a half liter of vodka is now 89 roubles (US$2.94, 2.05), nearly double what it was before the price raise. The time between New Year's day and the Orthodox Christmas (January 7) is often marked with a spike in drinking.

Vodka, seen here at a Russian supermarket.
Image: Vladimir Menkov.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made attempts to stem alcohol consumption in the nation, saying he was shocked that the average Russian drank 18 liters (38 US pints) of pure alcohol each year. The government said that the new tax would attempt "to reduce the level of alcohol dependency of the population."

Attempts made in the past have been unsuccessful, such as in 1985 when then president Mikhail Gorbachev ordered cuts to the production of wines and spirits. The cuts caused a surge in illegal moonshine production and lowered the popularity of Gorbachev.

Critics of the price raise say that it will only benefit black market producers and will not cut the nearly 35,000 deaths per year caused by acute alcohol poisoning.