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Alcohol-related deaths drop in Russia due to strict alcohol control measures, new WHO/Europe report says

According to a new WHO report, alcohol consumption in Russia has plunged by more than 40% between 2003-2016, and life expectancy has dramatically increased due largely to a set of comprehensive alcohol control measures put in place by the state.

The report, Alcohol Policy Impact Case Study: The effects of alcohol control measures on mortality and life expectancy in the Russian Federation, shows that total per capita consumption has been declining since 2003 and dropped by 43% until 2016, with a 40% decline in recorded consumption and a 48% decline in unrecorded consumption - alcohol produced and sold outside of governmental control.

At the same time all-cause mortality has dropped by 39% in men and by 36% in women between 2003 and 2018 with the most pronounced changes occurring in causes of death linked to alcohol consumption. This trend that was mirrored by an increase in life expectancy; in 2018, Russian life expectancy reached its historic peak, standing at almost 68 years for men and 78 years for women.  
“The dramatic decline in consumption of homemade, smuggled or illegally produced alcohol in the Russian Federation is attributable to the government’s adoption of evidence-based alcohol control policies. These results show that measures such as introduction of monitoring systems, price increase and limited alcohol availability work to save lives and health system costs. I trust that other countries will adopt similar policies to protect people’s health” said Carina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager Alcohol and Illicit Drugs, WHO Regional Office for Europe.   
In 2011, Russia supported the adoption of the WHO European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012-2020 and has been implementing many of its recommendations since. A series of policy interventions, recommended as effective or cost-effective by WHO, were adopted and enforced over the last years. For instance, Russia:  
·         gradually raised excise taxes on alcohol  
·         introduced a minimum unit price policy on vodka as far back as 2003 and has been increasing the minimum unit price over the years, and expanded this policy on other alcoholic beverages;   
·         introduced a real-time tracking system on the production and sale of alcohol   
·         began a comprehensive night ban on off-premises sales of alcohol nationally with even stricter restrictions of alcohol availability in some regions, as well as strict policies on alcohol-free public space and alcohol marketing.  
“Evidence-based policy interventions, such as those put in place in Russia, also work to reduce the burden of illness and death from noncommunicable diseases, which can be a game-changer to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 33% by 2030,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course.        

For further information, contact:  
Liuba Negru Country Support and Communications WHO Regional Office for Europe Tel: +45 45 33 67 89 / +45 20 45 92 74 (mobile) Email:
Tina Kiaer Communications Officer WHO Regional Office for Europe Tel: +45 30 36 37 76 (mobile) Email:  

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