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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alcohol Poisoning Claims Fewer Lives

The number of alcohol-related deaths declined in the first five months of 2006 thanks to new registration procedures in the alcoholic beverages industry, Gennady Onishchenko, the country's chief epidemiologist, said Friday.

Alcohol poisoning claimed 1,800 fewer lives in the period from January through May than during the same period last year, said Onishchenko, who heads the Health and Social Development Ministry's Federal Consumer Protection Service.

There were 236 fewer alcohol-related deaths in the Moscow region alone, Onishchenko said, without providing any additional statistics, Interfax reported.

Onishchenko said that in the city of Moscow 45 fewer people died, a drop of 22 percent.

In his state-of-the-nation address in 2005, President Vladimir Putin said 40,000 died each year from alcohol poisoning, primarily from drinking tainted alcohol. He called on the federal government to address the problem.

The federal government responded by introducing the Unified State Automated Information System, or EGAIS, a database that will eventually contain records on all alcoholic beverages sold in the country from both domestic and foreign producers.

Domestic producers began providing information to EGAIS in January. Importers and distributors of foreign wines and spirits were supposed to hook up to the system on July 1. The system has been overloaded and has functioned poorly, however, causing widespread shortages and bringing the industry to its knees.

Onishchenko said that, despite the problems, the new system had achieved its main goal: to reduce the amount of tainted alcohol available for consumption.

"All the lives that have been saved are worth the suffering of people who built their fortunes at the expense of the health and lives of their fellow citizens," he said in an apparent response to complaints from the alcoholic beverage industry.

The Sverdlovsk regional branch of the Federal Consumer Protection Service tells a different story, however. In a report posted on its web site, the branch office said alcohol-related deaths were up 19 percent in the first six months of 2006, compared with the same period last year.

The deaths were caused by excessive consumption of alcohol as well as by tainted alcohol, Anna Ozhiganova, a spokeswoman for the branch, said Friday by telephone.

The service does not keep separate statistics for these two types of alcohol poisoning, she said.

Onishchenko's spokeswoman declined to comment on the Sverdlovsk report.

Oleg Zykov, head of the nongovernmental organization No to Alcoholism and Drugs and a member of the Public Chamber, said the reported decline in alcohol-related deaths was consistent with the statistics of the Soviet campaign against alcoholism. The number of such deaths decreased in the first two years after the campaign started in 1985, but then jumped because people switched to homemade alcohol and various substitutes, he said.