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#9 - JRL 7189
May 20, 2003
Beer named Russia's most dangerous drug
By Anna Skvortsova

The Education Ministry has established that Russian schoolchildren spend some 2.5 billion dollars on drugs annually. In order to discourage youngsters from taking drugs, education officials suggest increasing excise duties on what teenagers usually begin with cigarettes and beer.

On Monday Education Minister Vladimir Filippov held a news conference at which he presented the results of the sociological survey The Drug Situation among Children and Youths. The poll, in which 5,000 young people aged between 11 and 24 took part, was conducted last year by the Education Ministrys centre for sociological studies in 88 regions of the country.

Sociologists had asked narcology experts, the Interior Ministry, committees for youth policy, and public and religious organizations to evaluate measures taken by authorities to prevent drug abuse in the country.

The Education Ministrys sociologists have established that at least 4 million Russians aged between 11-24 take drugs occasionally; some 1 million of them are regular drug addicts. Altogether, there are about 6.5 million drug users in Russia, of which 2 million are addicts.

Also, it transpired that teenagers are well informed about drugs. Half of all children at the age of 11 know about the narcotic properties of cannabis and opium; at 13 two-thirds, and by the age of 16 the number reaches 80 per cent.

Filippov added that each year young Russians spend at least 215 billion roubles on drugs, whereas expenses on higher education do not exceed 40 billion.

Furthermore, the ministrys experts have detected a close link between the consumption of alcohol and tobacco and drug addiction; the minister noted that children tend to start taking drugs when they are about 14 years old, alcohol at the age of 13 and they start smoking when they are eleven-and-a-half.

Some 50 per cent of the respondents admitted they smoke, and some 80 per cent confessed to a regular intake of alcohol. Two-thirds said they prefer beer, which causes particular concern at the Education Ministry.

''It is necessary to restrict beer advertising and to place it on the same footing as [strong] alcohol. We are losing 50-60 per cent of young people at the level of beer consumption. One must increase tax on the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and allot the derived funds for creating conditions for children to spend their leisure time in a different fashion,'' the minister emphasized.

According to the Education Ministrys experts, one of the main factors which fuels growth of drug abuse in Russia is the relevant security services failure to effectively resist the international drug mafia.

It has been established that the drug trade brings 500 per cent profits, with an annual turnover of $5 billion. At the same time, Russia spends no more than 60 million dollars a year to combat drug-related crime, treat patients and introduce preventive measures.

Besides, the population takes no part in that campaign, and the state bodies and media fail to influence public opinion sufficiently.

A special role in that campaign must be played by the mass media and on Monday education officials urged journalists and popular artists to make a joint effort in order to effectively persuade the younger generation that tobacco and alcohol are no longer in fashion, and drugs pave the road to the grave. The minister praised film director Yuri Grymov for his contribution to combating drugs Grymov attended the conference on Monday to play his new commercial aimed at discouraging young people from taking drugs.

At the same time, Grymov suggested that there is no use in scaring and pushing children. ''One should explain to them in their own language that drugs may make life different,'' he said. Grymov suggested that young drug addicts ought to be reminded of the stories of Curt Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix and Elvis Presley, who could have continued living and creating for the good of humanity, but died young because of drugs.

Grymov then played his anti-drug commercial, which for some reason made most journalists doubt that the respected director would succeed in his effort.

The commercial featured two youths heading for exams at a prestigious university, when at the last minute one of them injects himself in a lavatory and is, therefore, no longer able to accompany his friend. Several years later the young man who had made it to the exam and passed it is smiling happily as he gets a Nobel Prize, while his drug-dependent buddy is still sitting near the toilet with a dirty syringe in his hand.

But the minister seemed to be very pleased with Grymovs work. He complained that there are not enough means for such social advertising and again called for an increase in taxes on beer and cigarettes, so that the derived revenues could be used to finance production of anti-drug commercials.

Vladimir Filippov also proposed setting up special funds in each region of the country, to which employers reluctant to hire alcoholics and drug addicts and also companies that would like to see Russian citizens live long and happily buying their products instead of dying young of drug abuse, would transfer part of their proceeds.

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