Russia's alcohol poisoning deaths drop as booze quality improves

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Moscow, Jan 29 (UNI) As more and more Russians avoid taking homemade self-distilled spirits and industrial alcohol in favour of cheap, legal alcohol, the death toll from alcohol poisoning dropped for the second consecutive year, in 2007.

The director of the National Alcohol Association (NAA) Pavel Shapkin told mediapersons that about 19,000 people died of alcohol poisoning between January and November, 2007 in comparison to 28,000 in 2006 and 40,000 in 2005.

The increase in the number of alcohol poisoning deaths from 2000 to 2005 were a result of consumption of self-distilled spirits (in Russian samogon) and perfume, aftershave products, cleaning liquids and various technical fluids, Mr Shapkin said.

Russians consume about 300 million litres of these liquids annually, Russian Channel 5 television reported.

But a hike in excise duties for industrial alcohol products in 2006 has made often toxic moonshine more expensive and pushed drinkers toward safer options, such as cheap vodka, Mr Shapkin stressed.

The Russian government has recently pressed for a state alcohol monopoly and some observers have noted that waves of media coverage of alcohol poisonings could be intended to pave the way for such a monopoly.

However, many experts in the alcoholic beverage industry believe a state alcohol monopoly would do little to address the problem of alcohol-related deaths.

There are about 2.5 million alcoholics in Russia, according to the Chief Russian Epidemiologist Gennady Onishchenko.

The average Russian consumes some 15 litres of pure alcohol per year, he said.


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