Federation Council approves law that likens beer to alcohol

MOSCOW, July 13 (Itar-Tass) —— The Federation Council approved a law that should create a clear and transparent mechanism for state regulation of the alcohol market and the industry as a whole.

The document, among other things, likens beer to alcoholic drinks in terms of restrictions, and introduces up-to-date but stringent licensing requirements, identical for all Russian regions, tightens the rules of alcohol sale and consumption.

It also imposes stricter alcohol and beer advertising requirements.

According to the law, alcohol products will be divided into alcoholic drinks (including vodka), wine, fruit wine, liquor wine, sparkling wine, wine-based drinks, beer and beer-based beverages.

From July 2012, a drink containing 0.5 percent of spirit and more will be deemed an alcoholic drink. By that time, the government will have to draw up a list of products containing over 0.5 percent of spirit but that are not deemed alcoholic. Lawmakers say that kefir and kvas – traditional Russian drinks – will by all means included in the list.

Only organisations meeting certain warehouse requirements will be allowed to produce and sell alcohol, except for retail trade. They are required to own or lease warehouses for at least one year.

Alcohol can be sold in stores at prices that may not be lower than those determined by the authorised body. Violations will be punished with the revocation of licenses.

The law requires a health warning to be placed on alcoholic beverages. It also reduces the strength of alcohol, the production and turnover of which are to be declared and recorded from 40 percent to 25 percent.

Rules are even harsher for individual entrepreneurs. They will be required to declare and keep records of retail beer trade operations.

Only organisations will be allowed to sell alcohol in retail outlets. Individual entrepreneurs, who mainly own kiosks, will not be able to sell alcohol beverages, except beer, but only until January 1, 2013.

Alcoholic beverages, including beer, may not be sold in areas adjacent to children’s and educational institutions. Cultural organisations will be allowed to sell alcohol only in cafeterias and canteens.

After the law enters into force, alcohol will not be sold on public transport and at stops, including the subway, as well as filling stations.

Alcohol stronger than 16.5 percent may not be sold at marketplaces, railway stations, airports, public places attended by large numbers of people. However individual entrepreneurs will be allowed to sell beer at public catering places there. Alcohol up to 16.5 percent of spirit will be sold in kiosks until 2013. The law also bans the use of alcohol in such places.

The law bans the consumption of alcohol in yards, house entryways, on staircases, in lifts, at playgrounds, in city parks, public gardens, on lakes and beaches.

Retail trade in alcohol will be banned from 23:00 till 08:00, but this will not apply to public catering places.

The law has “a systemic nature and includes a number of important provisions aimed at both reducing and preventing alcohol abuse in Russia and improving regulation of alcohol production and sale,” experts say.

The authors of the law hope that it will help to reduce the share of illicit alcohol trade and increase budget revenues.

Viktor Zvagelsky, a member of the Committee for Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship, said earlier that the amendments to legislation were necessary because of the “rapidly and threateningly growing consumption of beer and low-alcohol cocktails, especially among young people”.

He said the existing restrictions were not effective and cited statistics as saying that the majority of young people buy beer and low-alcohol beverages in kiosks, especially those that work at night.

According to the lawmaker, the law will “restrict considerably young people’s access to beer, will make it substantially less available to them and will become an effective means of crime prevention among adolescents”.

Zvagelsky believes that this will “raise the level of culture and better protect health and well-being of society”.

This is consistent with President Dmitry Medvedev’s call 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.

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