Can Russia Fix Its Alcohol Problem By Banning Booze On Wednesdays?

By May Wilkerson 10/19/15

Russia will try anything to fight one of the worst alcohol problems in the world.

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Russia’s long battle with alcoholism is no joke. But a lawmaker's proposal to ban the sale and consumption of booze on Wednesdays seems like dark comedy given the failure of past attempts at alcohol prohibition.

When Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev attempted to cut vodka production and boost alcohol prices in 1985, there was a surge in alcohol-poisoning deaths as many alcoholics resorted to imbibing perfume, jet fuel, and other toxic alcohol-containing substances. There was also an increase in crime and violence, and little reduction in alcoholism, before the health crusade was abandoned.

Still, St. Petersburg lawmaker Andrey Anokhin suggested last week that officials reduce hours for alcohol sales throughout the week and make Wednesday a weekly "Temperance Day.”

Both cities have already suspended alcohol sales from 11pm to 8am and banned drinking in public venues. Anokhin's bill would further extend hours of restricted sales to 10pm to 11am, with some exceptions for bars and restaurants.

He proposes Wednesday as an alcohol-free day, since it’s in the middle of the work week, when he believes people should focus on their jobs, school work and families. Wednesday is also the traditional day of fasting in the Russian Orthodox church.

The bill has not yet been taken up for debate, but so far no other lawmakers have come out to support it. Many believe the bill would face an uphill battle to pass, even though alcohol consumption is a major public health and safety issue.

Another bill, proposed last month by Anton Belyakov of the Federation Council, would raise the nationwide drinking age from 18 to 21, the RBC news agency reported. It has also not yet been considered for debate.

The country continues to battle one of the worst alcohol problems in the world. One in three Russian teenage boys and one in five teenage girls consume alcohol at least every other day, according to a report from national consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor.

"The task of prevention of alcohol addiction is coming to the fore in Russia, where about 500,000 alcohol-related deaths are reported a year," said the report. "Some experts put the number of alcohol addicts in Russia at about 5 million, or 3.5% of the entire population."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.