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© RIA Novosti. Ruslan Krivobok

Russia's battle with the bottle targets underage drinking

by at 12/11/2010 18:27


Weaning Russia’s youngsters from the bottle is proving rather harder than taking candy from a baby – and changes to the law won’t make much difference, experts say.

After the summer decision to clamp down on night-time booze sales, the next anti-drink tactic is to make selling alcohol to juniors a criminal offence.

Offenders will face up to a year of correctional labour and a three-year trading ban under new amendments to the criminal code.


Tackle the cause, not the symptom

Increasing individual liability won’t fundamentally help the situation, as reducing demand is deemed the only solution.

“At present, to sell or not to sell alcohol [to minors] is more a matter of personal law-abidingness, while controlling demand should promote personal responsibility and self-control,” Oleg Zykov, president of the “No to Alcoholism and Drugs” foundation, told the Moscow News. “Of course fighting demand is much harder than limiting the offer, but it’s the only way.”

However, the new amendments will only hurt if followed by further action. “It’s always upsetting to see such problems being treated non-systematically,” Zykov says. “Sporadic actions bring no stable result and just deface themselves.”


Crime and punishment

At present, sellers who ignore their clients’ age are handed an administrative fine – something often easy to shrug off.

Putting them in the dock and threatening them with jail is intended to convince shops that this is a serious matter.

 “The measures are not overwhelming, but at least it is an issue of criminal responsibility, with one year of corrective labour or a three year trading ban,” RIA Novosti cited Putin as saying.


Endemic problem

Alcohol abuse has been among Russia’s main health concerns, and it affects children and teenagers on all levels. “The level of youth alcohol consumption increases wherever the drinking age falls,” Zykov said about the general trends in Europe.

“In case of Russia, however, this is strongly related to the terrible level of domestic violence and adult alcohol abuse.

“There should be an effective children’s rights protection system to deal with it which, unfortunately, Russia doesn’t have at the moment,” he concluded. 


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