Europe

Russia classifies beer as alcoholic

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev raises a glass with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (file image)
President Medvedev has ordered a package of measures to counter alcohol abuse in Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a bill that officially classifies beer as alcoholic.

Until now anything containing less than 10% alcohol in Russia has been considered a foodstuff.

The move, signed into law on Wednesday, will allow ministers to control the sale of beer in the same way that spirits are controlled.

Russian alcohol consumption is already twice the critical level set by the World Health Organization.

Although vodka has long been the traditional tipple in Russia, beer has soared in popularity, being marketed as a healthier alternative to spirits.

Over the past decade, beer sales in Russia have risen more than 40% while vodka sales have fallen by nearly 30%.

Correspondents say it is common to see people swigging beer in the street and in parks as if they are drinking soft drinks.

It is not restricted to certain stores and is sold around the clock.

"The law brings some order into the sale of beer," Vadim Drobiz, director of the Centre for Federal and Regional Alcohol Market Studies, told US broadcaster Bloomberg.

Last year the Russian beer industry was hit by a 200% tax hike on its products as ministers sought to bring consumption under control.

The new measures - which come into effect in 2013 - will stop alcohol being sold in unlicensed kiosks, ban its sale from stores between certain hours and restrict its advertising.

In 2009 President Medvedev ordered the government to prepare draft laws on a package of measures to counter growing alcohol abuse.

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