Average life expectancy for a Russian male is under 60 years. Russian women are expected to live above 73. Many doctors claim that this discrepancy is attributed to high levels of alcohol consumption among men. Russians are believed to consume around 15 liters of pure alcohol (think 4 gallons of grain alcohol) per year.
Ex-President Putin launched several society-friendly campaigns during his presidency: pro-natal policies, education loans etc. President Medvedev is taking over with a new initiative: an anti-alcohol campaign. Russia’s First Channel (probably the most-watched channel in the country) has been showing very graphic ads several times a day. Each one is names after a body part that is most affected by elevated alcohol consumption, such as brain and heart.
Here’s an approximate transcript of the brain one:
When alcohol enters your bloodstream, the erythrocytes coalesce. Blood clots that completely block your capillaries begin to form in your blood. Capillaries swell and explode.
When your consume 100g of vodka, around 8,000 brain cells die. After each drinking party over 10,000 dead brain cells leave your body with urine. Take care of yourself!
The accompanying video is so graphic that it makes your brain cells die right away, without any alcohol intake. I am not posting any screen shots since they can be too disturbing to some readers. But check for yourself on YouTube, and those brave enough to watch the other ads in the series can do it here.
Russia is indeed in dire need of an anti-alcohol campaign. The legal drinking age is 18, but it is rarely, if ever, enforced (I once observed a teenager who looked like he was 14 buy a bottle of vodka. The cashier was reluctant to sell to it to him, to which he replied it was for his dad. Once he left the store, he took out his sell phone to report that he was coming with the vodka to this friends). ‘Beer alcoholism’ is a rising phenomenon amongst teenagers and young men. Widespread advertising of beer and a belief that beer is ‘not really alcohol’ led to it becoming almost as commonplace as, say, coke is in the US. This problem is so deeply-rooted that the law banning drinking alcohol on the streets that was passed in 2004 was one of the very few Putin-approved laws that were never taken seriously.
The last anti-alcohol campaign in Russia, an all-out war heralded by Gorbachev in 1985-1988, failed miserably. Many wonderful vineyards were shut down and many ridiculous mottoes were coined in the name of a healthy nation. People instead resorted to making moonshine and trading it at the black market. This campaign has the potential to be much more successful than any prohibition can be.