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The Health of Nations

The Economist offers an insight into Russia’s raising of beer taxes – an alcohol clampdown and money spinner combined – or a novel form of protectionism?

At difficult moments politicians have been known to turn to drink. And with gaping holes in public finances the chance to raise taxes in the name of public health has never looked so good. So it is that Russia is considering plans to quadruple excise duties on beer by 2012. Carlsberg, a Danish brewing giant with over 40% of the market, reckons this will add 20-30% to retail prices. The government claims that the measure will raise money to fight the ravages of alcohol in a land where half of premature deaths are linked to drink. But there are reasons to be cynical, even if the 60 billion roubles ($2.1 billion) a year the state hopes to raise do go to battling alcoholism.

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