Russians are Drinking Ever More Moonshine at Great Risk to Their Health, Experts Say
June 8 – Moscow has trumpeted a decline in sales of alcohol as an indication
that its policies are making Russians healthier and improving life
expectancies, but in fact, the only sales that have dropped are for
increasingly expensive officially-registered alcoholic beverages. Sales of
moonshine and even more dangerous surrogates have increased.
is the disturbing message from the expert community, according to an article by
Anatoly Komrakov in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta, who says Russian experts
believe that if the authorities maintain their current approach, 40 percent of
all alcohol consumption will be from unregulated sources in 2019 (ng.ru/economics/2016-06-08/4_samogon.html).
Russian statistical agency has announced with obvious pride that alcohol sales
in Russia, despite an economic situation that might have been expected to drive
them up, have fallen for the second year in a row, the result, Rosstat says, of
higher taxes and rising prices and one that has improved public health.
in fact, alcohol purchases and consumption have not fallen but risen, the
result of decisions by Russians to produce their own moonshine, purchase “samogon”
from others, or use surrogates like perfumes and mouthwashes that contain
alcohol to satisfy their needs for escape from reality.
measure of this that the authorities do keep track of involves sales of samogon
apparatuses.Now widely advertised
online, these increased by 300 to 400 percent during 2014 alone, as Russians
chose to produce alcoholic beverages for themselves or to make money by
producing and selling them to others.
measure that indicates overall alcohol consumption among Russians is rising
rather than falling is that “in the regions of Russia, mortality from home-brew
alcohol is growing.” In 2015, the rate of such deaths rose by 32 percent in
2015 from the year before; and in Krasnodar kray by 27 percent year to year.
Drobiz, the director of the Moscow Center for Research on Federal and Regional
Alcohol Markets, says that to date, moonshine is mostly consumed by “marginal and
creative people” but that if the government continues its current policies, such
forms of alcohol will constitute “no less than 40 percent” of the country’s
alcohol sales three years from now.
of samogon for personal use is legal in Russia now, although the sale of such
products is now. At present, he estimates, about 200 million liters of
moonshine are now being produced each year, much of it by people who can’t
afford to purchase registered alcohol at current prices.
Russian authorities have closed many places where officially registered alcohol
can be sold, but for each of the ones closed, three “illegal” ones emerge, most
often in rural areas.A few years ago,
alcohol could be sold in about 300,000 places; now, it can be sold only in
about 210,000.Illegal sellers are more
than making up the difference, Drobiz says.
predicts that Russians will produce “up to 800 million liters” of moonshine
annually by 2019, four times as much as now; and a figure that will overwhelm
officially registered alcohol in many places.And in addition, Russians are likely to be consuming more surrogates as
immediate health consequences and the longer term impact of that trend on
demography are enormous and undercut Moscow’s efforts to improve public health
and extend life expectancy.