Russia to further raise minimum vodka prices

MOSCOW Fri Nov 29, 2013 4:06am EST

MOSCOW Nov 29 (Reuters) - Russia plans to raise minimum vodka prices next year as it seeks to reduce consumption of alcohol, despite risks that drinkers will resort instead to cheaper illegal liquor.

Alcoholism is estimated to contribute to 30 percent of deaths in the nation of 143 million, according to medical surveys.

Russia's government imposed minimum prices for strong spirits such as vodka and brandy in 2010 and has been raising the bar annually to factor in increases in excise taxes and inflation.

According to a draft decree published on a government web site the cheapest half-litre bottle of vodka will cost 199 roubles ($6.00) from Jan. 1, up 17 percent from the current 170 roubles.

The price will rise further to 220 roubles from Aug. 1, bringing total increases next year to almost 30 percent over 2013.

While higher prices have already dented store sales of vodka, according to official figures, experts warn that higher prices will lead people to drink more bootleg liquor - sometimes fatal if not distilled properly.

Russia has been tightening regulations for producers of vodka and beer, such as Russia's Synergy, Poland's CEDC and Danish brewer Carlsberg.

It has in recent years banned alcohol advertising, raised excise taxes, restricted sales after 11 p.m. and banned sales of alcohol, including beer, from kiosks. Lawmakers are now considering raising the minimum drinking age to 21 from 18. ($1 = 33.1600 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Douglas Busvine and William Hardy)

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