Availability and Characteristics of Nonbeverage Alcohols Sold in 17 Russian Cities in 2007

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Abstract

Background

It is known that a range of nonbeverage alcohols including eau-de-colognes and medicinal tinctures are consumed by sections of the Russian population. Research conducted in a city in the Urals (2003 to 2005) showed that consumption of such products is associated with very high mortality from a wide range of causes. However, there have been no systematic attempts to investigate the extent to which such products are available in other cities of the Russian Federation. There is particular interest in establishing this following the introduction of new federal regulations in January 2006 aimed at restricting the availability of these products.

Methods

In the first half of 2007, we conducted a survey in 17 cities that spanned the full range of city types in the Russian Federation excluding those in the Far East. In each city, fieldworkers visited pharmacies and other types of retail outlets and purchased samples of nonbeverage alcohols. These were defined as being typically 10 to 15 roubles per bottle, with an ethanol concentration of at least 60% by volume.

Results

We were able to purchase samples of nonbeverage alcohols in each of the 17 cities we investigated. The majority of the 271 products included were a cheaper and more affordable source of ethanol than standard Russian vodka. Medicinal tinctures, sold almost exclusively in pharmacies, were particularly common with an average concentration of 78% ethanol by volume. Most importantly, the majority of the products were of a sort that our previous research in 2004 to 2005 had established were drunk by working-age men.

Conclusions

While the 2006 federal regulations introduced in part to reduce the availability and consumption of nonbeverage alcohols may have had some effect on certain classes of nonmedicinal products, up until June 2007 at least, medicinal tinctures as well as some other nonbeverage alcohols that are consumed appear to have been readily available.

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