The Coming Vodka Monopoly

Back in June the respected health journal The Lancet published a scary report on alcoholism in Russia, noting that booze kills more people than war, making it the country’s biggest public threat.  Now that we are well into August, the leadership is responding.  Dmitry Medvedev distributed some comments to the media which he apparently read to a meeting of Ministers in Sochi (“Alcoholism in our country is a national disaster (…) This is a centuries old problem and one cannot hope to solve it overnight.“)

His heart definitely appears to be in the right place, and it would be hard to disagree with Medvedev’s somber assessment of this difficult reality.  What was interesting were the comments made by Health Minister Tatyana Golikova, who made mention of Mikhail Gorbachev’s semi-prohibition control program from 1985-1990.  And then, at the bottom of this Reuters piece, a little note that the government may soon initiate a state monopoly of the vodka business – which of course would be worth quite a lot of money.  No word yet on whether the Kremlin Inc. distillery would keep the Putinka brand.

We are the absolute (world) leader in terms of alcohol consumption,” said Golikova.

“No matter how one views the 1985-1990 anti-alcohol campaign and themistakes that were made … the campaign did lead to a serious drop indeath rates, especially among men, and it saved the lives of onemillion people over five years,” she said.

Gorbachev’s opponents said his campaign led to a boom in illegal production of low-quality alcohol.

Russian officials say about 30-50 percent of Russia’s vodka marketis illegal and untaxed. Many officials say a state vodka monopoly wouldbring order to the market and make it easier to control.