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Russia: Drunkenness a killer as state moves to impose spirit monopoly
Source: Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 1930 gmt 28 May 03

More than 40,000 died in Russia due to alcohol poisoning last year, Russian Channel One TV has reported.

"Experts think that illicitly-distilled spirits account for 40 per cent of the total amount of intoxicating liquors," said the late-night Nochnoye Vremya news, adding that moves have begun in parliament to introduce state monopoly on alcohol production to cut down on the number of casualties caused by the consumption of hooch.

"More than 40,000 people died due to alcohol poisoning in Russia last year. This is more than the number of lives claimed in traffic accidents and murders, although these, too, are often caused by alcohol: one in five car accidents and two-thirds of murders take place in a state of alcoholic intoxication," the programme said.

Alcohol abuse is also to blame for the ever-increasing number of children and adolescents running away from home and living rough without any supervision, Channel One said, without giving any figures. The young people were likely to become alcoholics themselves.

The programme said that officially some 2.5m alcoholics were registered in Russia, but that the unofficial figure was double that. Nothing much was being done at the state level to put this problem to rights. A health ministry expert acknowledged that real statistics were unavailable. The main problem, he said, was the poor quality of what people drink and excess drinking.

The heaviest drinkers were to be found in the north of the country and in the Urals area, among middle-aged people. According to international statistics, Russia was 14th in the league of countries with heaviest alcohol consumption, with 8.6 litres of pure alcohol per capita per head, the statistical data having been compiled without reference to illicit alcohol available on the market. Given its overall market share of almost a half, Russia would head the list, with just over 17 litres of pure alcohol per capita per year, Nochnoyye Vremya said.

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