Putin suggests Public Front take over fight against alcoholism and tobacco.

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LAKE SELIGER, Tver region, August 1 (Itar-Tass) —— Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested that the All-Russia People’s Front take over the fight against alcohol abuse and tobacco smoking in the country.

His statement came as a reply to a proposal from one the participants in the Seliger-2011 youth forum on Monday, August 1, that the age limit for the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes be raised to 21 and that harsher penalties for selling them to minors be imposed.

“This is a very sensitive thing for society and I will ask my colleagues to submit your proposal for discussion as part of preparations for the Duma elections within the framework of the All-Russia People’s Front,” Putin said.

“This is one of the problems that can and should be discussed ion such a broad platform,” he added.

At the same time, he cautioned against prohibitive and punitive measures and recalled “the sad experience of the Soviet Union” when the anti-alcohol campaign had led to mass-scale moon-shining.

“This problem cannot be solved by a simple ban or price rise. It requires a comprehensive solution – educational, administrative and economic measures. And one should act very carefully there,” Putin said.

President Dmitry Medvedev earlier called for measures designed to reduce alcohol consumption in Russia, primarily among young people.

“The first thing we should do is stop the growing consumption of alcohol among young people,” Medvedev said.

“The habit of drinking with and without a reason may lead to heavy alcohol addiction in a rather short time,” the president said.

Medvedev cited experts as saying that young people consume an increasingly growing amount of low-alcohol drinks and beer.

“According to the data we have, one third of young men and almost 20 percent of young women use such drinks daily or every other day,” he said.

According to statistics, 18 litres of pure alcohol is consumed in Russia per person a year. “This is about 50 bottles of vodka for each resident of the country, including infants,” Medvedev said.

“This is a monstrous figure. After 9-10 litres, gene pool problems arise, and degradation begins,” he added.

“We should use all kinds of methods in order to change our attitude towards this dramatically. Being tough is not about drinking or smoking. Being tough is when one communicates with others, gets an emotional stress and when there is no need to use alcohol or drugs in order to achieve that state,” the president said.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Development, there are more than 28 million alcoholics in Russia. Of 10 million children at the age of 11-18, more than 50 percent use alcohol and beer regularly. Two of three Russian children at the age of 13-16 drink alcohol.

According to the national Alcohol Association, about 60,000 children were registered as alcoholics in Russia as of the beginning of 2008. The actual number is bigger.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development says that Russians begin to drink beer on a regular basis from the age of 12, wine from the age of 15 and vodka from the age of 16.

The latest public opinion polls indicate that alcoholic cocktails are the most often purchased drink among teenagers from the age of 13 to the age of 17.The average age of people who drink heavily, mainly beer, has declined from 14 to 11 over the past ten years.

In 2007, 72,500 people died from diseases related to alcohol abuse. The death rate for this reason is as high as 30 percent among men and 15 percent among women.

The level of alcohol abuse in Russia is among the highest in the world. Russia holds the lead in terms of alcohol consumption with 18 litres per person a year.

Specialists are particularly worried by the spread of alcohol addiction among teenagers. Medics believe that television advertising, the availability of beer and alcohol cocktails lead to early consumption of alcohol. As a result, teenagers drink more, switching to harder liquor. This problem is especially acute in asocial families where parents abuse alcohol. Experts believe that social assistance agencies should play a bigger role in such situations.

Of three million alcohol and drug addicts, 1.3 percent abuse toxic substances, 16 percent drugs, and 82.7 percent alcohol. These are official data released by specialised institutions of the Ministry of Health and Social Development.

The ministry has drafted a concept for a governmental policy aimed at reducing alcoholism in Russia. It calls for “limiting the consumption of alcohol, keeping bad quality alcohol away from the market, setting up a comprehensive system for the prevention of alcohol abuse, and promoting a healthy lifestyle”.

Medvedev said that alcoholism and drug addiction should be fought not by bans but by comprehensive measures.

According to the president, it is necessary to solve a whole range of issues from raising people’s incomes to creating leisure opportunities so that people could occupy themselves rather than “go to a store, buy a bottle and, sitting red-eyed in the kitchen, get glued to the TV screen”.

He regretted that over 40 percent of young people in Russia smoke. “This means that almost half of the people have made a conscience choice to destroy their own health,” he said.

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