Background During the past fifteen years significant progress has been made in Russia in reducing the total per capita alcohol consumption, which has contributed to a reduction in total and alcohol-attributable mortality. Part of this success was due to the implementation of the control policies targeting surrogate alcohols(SAs). However, the suppression of consumption of these alcohols was uneven, and at some periods after 2005 progressed rather slowly. Until now, a number of types of SAs still remain available, affordable, and consumed for drinking by subjects with alcohol use disorders (e.g. antiseptics, not denatured eau-de-colognes, medicinal spirits).This study was purported at assessing the quality and identifying gaps in laws and regulations aimed at controlling the consumption of surrogate alcohols that were effective, newly enacted or amended in Russia between 2005 and 2019.
Methods Laws and regulations directed at SAs were identified by computer search in the Russian electronic reference systems for legislation (e.g. Consultant Plus; Garant), and on the web-sites of relevant state agencies. The content analysis of texts of regulations, evaluation of diversity of provided control policies, and of timing of their implementation, was performed.
Results Seventeen key regulatory documents (e.g. laws, decrees, orders, codes) were identified and analysed. The major identified gaps, related to control of SAs, included: 1)limited range of implemented control policies (e.g. no established minimal prices, or separate excise taxes on different types of SAs), 2)discrepancies and lack of harmonisation between different decrees and orders (e.g. while one decree banned production of medicinal tinctures in larger bottles(>25 ml of volume), another order allowed it in bottles up to 100 ml of volume), 3)poor enforcement (e.g. existence of sizable market of counterfeit methanol-based antifreeze and windshield washer liquids despite legal ban on their production and sale), 4)recommendatory character of some regulations (e.g. denaturing is recommended,but not obligatory), 5)delayed implementation of effective policies (e.g. ban on sale of specific types of SAs(cheap spirituous lotions, tonics, bath additives, food flavour enhancers)was implemented only after the large scale outbreak of poisonings with spirituous bath additive in Irkutsk in 2016), 6)temporality of implemented policies (e.g. bans on sale of cheap SAs are effective only for6–9 months and may or may not be extended for the next periods of time), 7)overall lack of harmonization and coordination between different state agencies responsible for control of SAs (e.g. while one agency effectively suppressed consumption of specific perfumery and cosmetic alcohols, another agency responsible for medicinal spirits doesn’t do this), and other gaps.
Conclusion Despite the progress achieved in controlling the consumption of specific types of surrogate alcohols, Russia still needs to do substantial work to improve quality of regulation of other types of surrogate alcohols. The fragmentary delayed control, and the reduced quality and insufficient enforcement of regulations can be partially explained by the lobby of manufacturers of surrogate alcohols, some of which are large-scale businesses capable of influencing the alcohol policy-making process.
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