Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maybe the Russians have something right

Drink More, Smoke More, Finance Minister Tells Russians

The things that pass for patriotic duty.
Alexei Kudrin, Russia's finance minister, is telling his fellow countrymen and women to keep buying smokes and to pour another drink or two in order to help boost government revenues.
"People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state," Kudrin said according to a translation provided by Interfax news.
New taxes on cigarettes were passed in June, Agence France Presse reported, and once they're fully implemented by 2013, the state's take per 1000 cigarettes will double to $19.20. Next year's portion of that hike should raise the average cost of a pack of smokes by about nine cents, according to a tobacco industry website. Russian cigarettes currently sell for about $1.40 a pack.
Drinking is getting more expensive, too. By 2013, heavier alcohol taxes are expected to increase the price of the cheapest Russian vodka from a current dollar equivalent of $2.81 to $4.71, according to the same source.
While lighting up to save the economic health of mother Russia may seem like a counter-intuitive idea given the costs associated with treating lung cancer and dragging river bottoms from drowned drunks, a new study finds that encouraging the nation to have a lot more to drink may not be totally boneheaded advice. As Time's John Cloud wrote:

[A] new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that -- for reasons that aren't entirely clear -- abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.

That finding, and the best wishes of the Russian finance minister, appear not to have convinced Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, however. As AOL News reported last month, Luzhkov announced a crusade against liquor, signing a law that forbids the sale of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. in an effort to cut consumption by up to 50 percent. It takes effect today.
Of course, in classic Catch-22 fashion, any decrease in alcohol sales could wipe out the financial gains derived from levying higher taxes and encouraging the populace to drink and smoke more. So what's a good Russian to do?

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