Russia may still have a reputation as a nation of heavy drinkers, but a report by the World Health Organization shows alcohol consumption has dropped by 43% since 2003.

The WHO put the decrease down to a series of measures brought in under the sport-loving president, Vladimir Putin, including restrictions on alcohol sales and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

“The Russian Federation has long been considered one of the heaviest-drinking countries in the world,” the report, published on Tuesday, says, adding that alcohol was a major contributor to a spike in the number of deaths in the 1990s. “However, in recent years these trends have been reversed,” it says.

The study shows a 43% drop in alcohol consumption per capita from 2003 to 2016, driven by a steep decline in the consumption of bootleg booze.

The authors said this trend was a factor in increased life expectancies in Russia, which reached a historic peak in 2018, at 78 years for women and 68 years for men. In the early 1990s, male life expectancy was just 57 years.

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, led an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, which brought down consumption from the mid-1980s until 1990. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption exploded, continuing to rise until the start of the 2000s.

Under Putin, Russia has introduced measures including a ban on shops selling any alcohol after 11pm, increases in the minimum retail price of spirits and an advertising blackout.

Earlier WHO figures showed Russian adults drink less alcohol on average than their French and German counterparts.

Moscow has also launched a drive against smoking, last week announcing a ban on lighting up, even on private balconies.

Tobacco use plummeted by more than a fifth between 2009 and 2016, down to 30% of Russians, according to the most recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey.


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