Hard or soft prohibition is not the way to help people with a drink problem kick the habit, the Russian president says Vladimir Putin © Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The government should promote healthy alternatives to excessive alcohol consumption rather than adopting restrictive policies, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

“You cannot prohibit it or impose excessively high excise duties to ramp up the prices,” the Russian leader said during video meeting with a Russian governor on Wednesday, adding that ignoring the problem and saying “people drink and they always will” is also the wrong approach.

There are “simple things” that can be done to deal with the issue effectively, Putin suggested, including promoting better lifestyles and offering healthier alternative ways for people to spend their free time.

“I am not saying anything novel here, but still. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle is very important. But it’s not enough. There needs to be a developed infrastructure for sports and physical training,” the president noted.

“And culture in the wider sense needs attention. Make the conditions for people to go to places, foster their interest in culture,” he added.

The issue was raised when the president mentioned to Aleksandr Avdeev, Governor of the central Russian Vladimir Region, that his constituency’s alcoholism rate is double the national average.

Alcohol abuse has a long history in Russia, and for centuries taxing vodka and other spirits has been an easy way for the government to fill its coffers. However, national consumption has significantly dropped in the last decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A 2021 report by the European office of the WHO’s SAFER initiative, aimed at combating alcohol abuse, said that between 2010 and 2016 Russia saw a 26.1% decline in estimated per-capita consumption, compared to the average 12.5% decrease in the region. (RT)