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17 Aug, 2009 05:10

Boozy kids: too young to drink

Getting a bottle of booze is not a problem for kids in Russia. Those who are 14 and even younger say they are never asked for any proof of age in the shops. Curbing underage drinking is becoming a top priority.

Children mostly drink beer, which Russia doesn’t classify as alcohol. The problem is getting worse as beer consumption has more than tripled in the past fifteen years.

Age is never a problem – for the sellers

Those who were playing here under their mothers’ watchful eyes just a few years ago are teenagers now, and getting a bottle of booze is an easy task for them.

They say that usually no one asks for their documents in the shops.

To find out how easy it is for underage people to buy drinks, RT followed fourteen-year-old Masha and Yulia to their local shop. Within a minute they both came out with bottles.

“They never ask us how old we are,” the girls confirmed.

Family matters

Police follow similar tactics to reveal those who sell alcohol to children under 18. They regularly send a minor with marked money into a store to see if the sales clerk checks their identification.

Many sellers fail the test. The fine for them is around one hundred dollars.

Police officer Aleksandr Kochanov says whatever measures they take, they can’t stop minors from drinking.

“If a kid is rejected at one store, they’ll go to another, and someone will sell them booze. It’s up to parents to direct their children the right way. That’s why we mostly talk to parents”.

Why drink – and why not?

Do teenagers who drink alcohol come from alcoholic families? No, they don’t.

“If my parents find out that I drink they’ll kill me,” 14-year-old Danila said.

Do they think drinking is bad? They all say “yes”.

Then what makes them get together some four times a week and drink?

“The nation has health problems, many people die because they drink too much,” said Danila. He realizes how bad it is to drink at such a young age. Though, he adds:

“But I can’t do anything about that. It’s the influence of my friends. They say ‘Have a drink’ and I say ‘OK, I’ll drink a little bit’, and then they offer more, but when I answer ‘no’ they ask ‘Why? Are you a little boy?’, and I agree to drink more”.

Yulia, mother of 15-year-old Daniil Kodanev, says the best way to protect a child from bad habits is to introduce him to activities he will enjoy.

Daniil took up sport at the age of six. He’s also into comedy shows and wants to be an actor. He says drinking has never been a part of his interests.

“My friends are sportsmen, like me,” said Daniil.

“I haven’t been doing sport for nine years to sink it into alcohol – no way. I tried beer once, the night before a skiing competition, the next day I lost. It was the worst experience in my life”.

When it comes to special occasions Yulia says she doesn’t mind her son taking a sip of drink. Two weeks ago for the first time she offered him a glass of champagne, and even that he refused.

Police can take measures to punish those who sell alcohol to minors, but they say they’re unable to solve the problem. So it’s the family that has the biggest influence on children and the values that they pass on.

Read also: Mikhail Gorbachev: Russia needs another anti-alcohol campaign