By Andrew Starke

Russia is set to legally classify beer as an alcoholic drink for the first time as the Kremlin carries out its toughest anti-alcohol campaign yet.

For years, beer has been classified as a foodstuff in a country whose drinkers are regularly noted as the heaviest in the world.

While vodka is the alcoholic beverage of choice for most Russians, beer is in second place and is generally seen by the population as a healthier, almost non-alcoholic alternative.

Russia is presently the third largest beer market in the world in terms of consumption, beaten only by the United States and China, with its beer consumption tripling over the last 15 years.

However its categorisation as a foodstuff has previously meant that producers avoided sweeping crackdowns on alcohol advertising and evening sales.

With the average Russian consuming 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year—double the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum—the Russian government has taken a harder line when it comes to alcohol regulation.

“Normalizing the beer production market and classifying it as alcohol is totally the right thing to do and will boost the health of our population,” Yevgeny Bryun, the ministry of health’s chief specialist on alcohol and drug abuse, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

“We have been talking about and have wanted such a measure for ages. I take my hat off to the parliament.”

The reclassification would restrict when beer can be sold at night and see it banned from shops close to schools, outdoor kiosks, airports and train stations.

All shops would have to stop selling beer between 11pm and 8am with further restrictions applying to beer stronger than five percent ABV.

Danish brewer Carlsberg, owner of Russia's best selling beer brand Baltika, this week warned news agency Reuters that it faced modest growth and squeezed margins in Russia, while SABMiller said that 2010 marked its third straight year of falling Russia sales.


The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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