Russian vodka price set to double due to tax hike

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

Image caption,
At least two million people in Russia are classified as alcoholics

The Russian government is planning steep increases in alcohol taxes which would double the price of vodka over two years.

Drink manufacturers have criticised the move, saying it will lead to a dramatic increase in illegal alcohol production.

The move is part of an ambitious government campaign to clamp down on the legendary excessive drinking of many Russians.

Alcoholism is a leading cause of death in Russia.

The average amount of pure alcohol consumed by the population has doubled since the 1990s.

Price hikes

According to official figures, at least two million people in Russia are classified as alcoholics.

Part of the problem is that vodka remains so cheap.

Earlier this year, the government imposed a new minimum price for a bottle of vodka which is more that twice the cost of some brands which had been available in shops across the country.

Now, the country's finance ministry is intending to hike taxes on strong alcoholic drinks, which would mean that in the year 2012, the minimum price for a bottle of vodka would again double in price.

But drinks companies say such rapid increases in prices would simply drive the production of alcohol underground, with disastrous consequences for those who drink what is often lethal bootleg vodka.

And many here are deeply sceptical that the government will be able to enforce the changes - given how addicted Russians are to alcohol, and how much money manufacturers can make from selling it.