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Belarus Takes Another Look at Alcohol Controls

Minsk mulls restrictions on drink sales and raising the drinking age to curb the drastic effects of high alcohol consumption.

2 January 2018

Nearly two percent of Belarusians were alcoholics or suffering from alcohol-related psychosis in 2016, the country’s Health Ministry reported last month, just in time to cheer people’s spirits ahead of New Year’s Eve.

 

Belarus, like several former Soviet and East Bloc countries in its general neighborhood, ranks among the heaviest-drinking countries in the world. But its status as the last remaining centrally controlled economy in the region means the authorities can intervene more forcefully than most to control access to liquor, at least in theory.

 

The government acknowledges the high toll of heavy drinking. About a quarter of all crimes in the country are committed by intoxicated people, and the figure rises to 70 to 80 percent for serious crimes such as murder and robbery, RFE/RL cites the Interior Ministry as saying.

 

The government is considering a number of measures to tackle heavy drinking, from raising the drinking age to cutting the number of places where alcohol can be bought and restricting nighttime sales of alcohol.

 

Alcohol bottles. Public domain image via Pixabay.

 

However, as Belarus Digest wrote in May, some of these steps have been tried in the past only to be rescinded after pressure from the alcohol lobby.

 

In 2013, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka gave up a plan to ban the sale of popular cheap fruit wines, and two years later the government cancelled a moratorium on alcohol sales between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.

 

Home brewing is popular in Belarus, Belarus Digest said after police busted a large operation in the Minsk region city of Maladziechna responsible for making 21 tons of beer and 100 liters of moonshine.

 

One of the steps Minsk is considering could raise the drinking age to one of the highest in the world, RFE writes.

 

The Interior Ministry has posted a questionnaire on the proposed anti-drinking measures. Among the questions is one asking for approval for raising the drinking age to either 20 or 21, or leaving it at 18.

 

In Europe and Central Asia, only Iceland and Uzbekistan have set the legal drinking age at 20, according to RFE.

 

 

  • New Lithuanian laws raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 20 and restricting alcohol sales at certain times took effect on 1 January.

 

  • Russia’s Siberian Zabaikalsky region declared an alcohol epidemic in December, when the Health Ministry said about two percent of its citizens were suffering from alcohol-related disorders.

 

  • The region banned the sale of alcohol after 8 p.m. two years ago.

 

  • Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans, are the world’s heaviest drinkers. Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and the Czech Republic consumed the most  alcohol per head in 2016, the WHO estimates.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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