Relentless lawmaker makes fourth attempt to raise Russia’s legal drinking age
“The authors of the bill are confident that this measure would protect society from the early onset of alcoholism affecting the younger generation,” an explanatory note attached to the draft read.
They noted the direct correlation between the legal drinking age and the quantity of traffic accidents caused by people driving under influence. The lawmakers also noted the experience of the United States, which dropped the minimum drinking age from 21 years to 18 in the 1970s but had to raise it again to 21 in 1988 due to the increasing number of drink-and-drive accidents.
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Senator Belyakov said that despite those over 18 being classed as adults in Russia, some sociological and psychological research has shown that 18 year-olds are unable to make responsible decisions regarding how much alcohol they consume.
The sponsors of the bill also showed the results of an opinion poll where 79 percent of those questioned said that raising the legal drinking age would be the most effective way of trying to fight alcohol abuse.
“It is important to emphasize that two thirds of those asked are from the younger generation and they supported raising the minimum legal drinking age,” they added.
This will be the fourth time Belyakov has submitted the proposal to the Lower House. The lawmaker drafted similar bills in 2009, 2012 and 2013, but none of them even made it to a first reading.
Belyakov’s plans were met with scorn by officials and rival politicians, who oppose the idea and have called it populist and illogical.
Sultan Khamzayev of the Russian Public Chamber said that the bill had been prepared in haste and that the whole situation brought suspicions that its sponsors only sought self-promotion when they were drafting a “raw” document in the middle of public discussion.
The head of the Lower House Health Committee Sergey Kalashnikov (LDPR) called Belyakov’s bill “a mockery” and a completely mindless copy of a US legislation. He added that all arguments against the suggestion were well known with the main point that it is wrong to restrict choices of a full-pledged citizen.
“People who are 18 can marry and have children, take care of their children and be responsible for them, but they will not be allowed to enter liquor stores and make purchases there. We summon men to military forces at 18, hand them rifles and let them decide how they want to live - yet still they will not be able to buy vodka? This is a pure mockery,” Kalashnikov said, as cited by TASS.
Earlier this year the State Duma rejected the government’s suggestion to introduce fines for pedestrians who refuse to undergo medical sobriety tests as a part of a broader administrative law that forbids the consumption of alcohol in public places. The lawmakers noted that even if the tests prove a suspect is drunk, it will be necessary to prove that he or she was drinking in a public place and not somewhere where it is allowed, such as at home or in a restaurant.
In February, the Justice Ministry rejected a registration application from the Russian Prohibition Party because the activists failed to open the sufficient number of regional branches.