Russia's president calls time on vodka "disaster"
By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday called time on the country's vodka tipplers, saying alcoholism had become a "national disaster."
Medvedev said measures aimed at reducing binge drinking had not reduced alcoholism in Russia, where downing vast amounts of vodka at one sitting is an integral part of national culture.
"If I speak openly, I think that one cannot speak of any change, nothing has changed," Medvedev told a meeting of senior officials in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, according to a copy of his remarks supplied by the Kremlin.
"Alcoholism in our country is a national disaster."
Medvedev said he was shocked by official data showing the average Russian drank 18 liters (38 pints) of pure alcohol each year.
"When you convert that into vodka bottles, it is simply mind-boggling," Medvedev said.
Doctors believe alcohol related diseases cause around half of all deaths of Russians between the ages of 15 and 54, a key factor in dire demographic forecasts used in long-term economic growth models.
Just 40 percent of this year's Russian school leavers are likely to live to the pension age of 55-60, according to World Health Organization figures quoted by Health Minister Tatyana Golikova. Continued...