|An alcoholic's paradise. Supermarket shelves loaded with vodka. There were more in the next aisle. Not to mention the bottles stacked in the bargain bins. I'd never seen anything like it - but this is common in Russian supermarkets.|
Sunday, 1 April 2012
Smokin' an' drinkin'
On the whole, I like Moscow.
In Russia, 70% of men smoke and 40% of women (2010 Health Survey report by Russia’s Health & Social Development Ministry). This is a lot compared to my country, where there has been considerable progress towards stamping out this vile drug addiction.
Unfortunately there is no restriction on smoking in restaurants or cafes in Russia and this is a bit limiting for us as I will not eat or drink in a place that is toxic and stinks. Many restaurants have no smoking areas (ask for ‘ne kooreesh’ if you really must eat in one), but often this is just an arbitrary line in the carpet. Regardless, the World Health Organisation warns that even in non-smoking areas the airborne toxic chemicals can be up to 4.5 times the recommended safe level. Fortunately there are a number, though not enough, cafes and restaurants that do not permit smoking in Moscow.
I was interested to find on our recent trip to Turkey, where people also puff like chimneys, that smoking is not permitted in enclosed public spaces such as restaurants.
The burden on the Russian health system must be enormous. Interestingly, though, the majority of men don’t get the opportunity to die of smoking-related diseases. Alcohol usually gets them first.
The average Russian drinks more than the equivalent of 18 litres of pure alcohol each year. That figure includes the entire population. Extract kiddies and non/moderate drinkers from the average and it must be closer to an incredible 30 litres a year. Putting this in a perspective wine drinkers will understand, the average 750 ml bottle of wine contains about 11% alcohol. That’s about .0825 mls of alcohol. Thirty litres of alcohol is thus equivalent to 363 bottles of wine. In other words, the average Russian is socking away the equivalent of roughly a full bottle of wine every single day. Having seen shelves of cheap vodka in the supermarkets, I can believe it. A large bottle of vodka costs $8Aus or less. According to a 2009 study, alcohol accounts for 52% of Russian deaths. In addition, about 14,000 traffic deaths each year are caused by drunk drivers (plus 60,000 serious injuries).
In 2009 the average life expectancy for men was 58 years. That’s the average. It means, of course, that half the males die before they reach 58.
Finally, a sobering word to any smokers reading this. Many years ago my father, who was a smoker, complained of shortness of breath. He was found to have a collapsed lung. The other was full of cancer. He spent the next 12 months, between operations and chemotherapy, dying in a manner more ghastly than you can possibly imagine. His generation did not know the hazards of smoking. Now, with endless warnings about the effects of tobacco, I cannot understand why any person would self-administer a substance so deadly that it can, among other horrible things, collapse lungs. If you must take poison, do yourself a favour and use cyanide. In return it will, unlike tobacco, do you the favour of killing you quickly and painlessly.
Oh, and by the way, the famous Marlboro Man from those old cigarette ads – all three of the people who appeared as cowboys in those ads, Wayne McLaren, Darrell Winfield and Dick Hammer, died of – you guessed it - lung cancer.