Few subjects prompt keener interest or deeper philosophical rumination in Russia than alcohol, and those that do are invariably discussed over drinks. Today’s New York Times reports that “In Russia, which has one of the world’s highest rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related illness, vodka remains the top choice. But beer is not far behind. The average Russian drinks more than four gallons of alcohol a year.” As the story continues:
“The new law, which took effect on Jan. 1, aims to reduce those numbers. It bans beer sales from kiosks entirely, and in other stores between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. And as with increased taxes on alcohol in recent years, it aims to curb public drinking, particularly the casual drinking in city parks and snow-covered promenades that can begin before breakfast and end after midnight.
“Though technically illegal, drinking in such public spaces is usually tolerated.
“As with other weighty subjects that generate fierce debate here — the quality of Moscow theaters; the level of national security; the relative greatness of writers and poets — there are conflicting views on the new law. Even some people whose businesses will suffer said they supported the government’s goals.
“Industry statistics show that the kiosks, which line streets and typically cluster around subway stations, account for about 30 percent of beer sales. At the kiosk on Tsvetnoy Bulvar, Ms. Novikova said beer was the single most popular item, accounting for nearly $700 in sales a day.
“The law is also expected to put at least a small dent in sales for beer manufacturers. Ben Morton, a spokesman for Carlsberg, which is the largest beer-maker in Russia and controls about 40 percent of the market, including the brand Baltika, said that similar restrictions existed in other countries and that the company was well prepared.”