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Russian president signs bill classifying beer as alcohol

Until recently, beer was treated like a soft drink in Russia, and even presented as a healthier alternative to vodka.
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Three Russian men drink a beer in the open air snack-bar in Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a bill that officially classifies beer as alcoholic. (TATYANA MAKEYEVA /AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed legislation that officially classifies beer as alcohol in Russia.

The new law will allow controls on the sale of beer and other "low alcohol" beverages in an attempt to reduce alcohol abuse in Russia, a country with an alcohol consumption that is twice the critical level set by the World Health Organization.

Until now, any drinks containing less than 10 percent alcohol have been classified as a foodstuff in Russia, with no restrictions on sales.

Russians have tended to treat beer as if it were a soft drink, and it is has even been marketed as a healthier alternative to vodka, the BBC says. Beer has soared in popularity in recent years, while vodka sales have fallen.

Last year Russia increased its tax on beer by 200 percent as the government sought to bring consumption under control.

The new law will control beer production and sales, and prohibit sales of beer at unlicensed kiosks starting in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Kiosks reportedly sell at least 30 percent of all beer consumed in Russia.

The law also restricts advertising for alcoholic drinks and bans stores from selling alcohol from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. It will also aim to reduce illegal liquor production.

“This is a big deal. I know someone who once went to rehab in Russia for a drinking problem – he couldn’t have vodka or wine on site, but beer was no problem,” GlobalPost’s Russia correspondent Miriam Elder writes.

“You often see people drinking beer in the mornings, on the metro or walking down the street, especially when it’s particularly cold.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/russia-beer-alcohol-medvedev-signs-bill