Will Russia Lift the Ban on Selling Alcohol Near Schools?

Russian shopper reaches towards a supermarket aisle of alcohol
A customer browses the alcohol aisle at a supermarket in Moscow. Russian legislation currently allows authorities to ban sales of alcohol up to 1 kilometer from a school. Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

The Russian Ministry of Trade is working to overturn a ban on selling alcohol near schools, believing the law had only resulted in financial losses for state and business, national daily Vedomosti reports.

New regulation was brought in to ban the sale of alcohol near schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and sports facilities in 2012. The ban was introduced in a bid to reverse harrowing statistics showing that a quarter of Russian men do not live past the age of 55, with excessive drinking stated as one of the main reasons.

Since then, however, Russia’s economy has entered a recession that it will likely not exit until 2017.

Deputy Minister of Trade Viktor Evtukhov told Vedomosti he is now working on a way to do away with the regulation because it has proved ineffective in stopping Russians from drinking and instead encourages contraband sales which hurt the amount of excise tax that the state takes in.

According to current legislation, regional authorities can set the radius from a facility—anywhere between 10 meters (32 feet) and 1 kilometer (0.6 miles)—within which selling alcohol is not allowed. Evtukhov believes this has backfired and only hurts the areas that set the largest dry radiuses, because people then flock to the nearest area with an open liquor shop. Meanwhile, he said, if some towns went on to enforce the ban “we’d be left with only one place where we can buy alcohol—the cemetery.”

Alternatively, Evtukhov says, the ban could be boosting illegal alcohol sales, which the government cannot regulate and receives no tax revenue from.

The fewer liquor stores that open, the smaller the revenue the government gets from issuing licenses. The deputy minister proposed that the process of a shop obtaining a license to sell booze should be made simpler.

When reached by Vedomosti, officials from the Ministry of Health and Russia’s alcohol sales watchdog RAR said they had not been made aware of the bill and the Ministry of Health opposed repealing the ban. The bill has also not been submitted for a parliamentary vote yet, according to the Russian lower house of parliament’s web page of impending votes on drafted laws.

Research published last week by Russian national daily Kommersant showed that Russian vodka exports were down to a 10-year low in 2015, while newspaper Izvestia estimated that sales of hard liquors in Russia was down by 20 percent.