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11 Feb, 2008 03:18

Vodka 'on the rocks' in Russia?

Vodka sales in Russia have slumped by as much as 10%. The reason is attributed to more sensible drinking choices being made by Russians.

More wine and beer is now being ordered and as a result alcohol-related deaths have fallen dramatically.

Generally known as having a culture of heavy drinking, Russia has lived with the stigma of this reputation for generations – and there are reasons.

In 2006 nearly 60.000 Russians died of alcohol-related illness.

But the latest official figures suggest things could be changing for the better – and fast.

“We have changed our type of alcohol consumption to a more southern European one. It's happened due to changes in legislation towards strong alcoholic drinks,” said Pavel Shapkin from the National Alcohol Organisation of Russia.

Vodka sales are down by 10%, while weaker drinks like wine and beer are growing in popularity. Last year the number of alcohol-related deaths was slashed by a third.

And that more than twenty million people gave up vodka in 2007 as their regular tipple.

“Really when people come out now – they come out to eat,” confirmed bar and restaurant manager Oleg Loginov.

The younger generation is less likely than their parents to drink strong spirits or drink to excess regularly. Also many formerly heavy drinkers are deciding to turn their lives around.

Around 40,000 people did die of alcohol in Russia last year, so it would be wrong to say that this is no longer a problem but such a significant drop in deaths in just one year would suggest that more people are putting their health ahead of their drinking.