Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a cap on rising vodka prices in a desperate attempt to preserve his popularity as the Russian economy falters.
At a government meeting on Wednesday, Putin said that high vodka prices would encourage sale consumption of cheap, inferior liquor, which would eventually lead to health problems.
Vodka prices rose by 30 percent since last year, but considering legal alcohol consumption dropped 14 percent this year, the government has decided to act on it.
Putin, who is known to promote a "healthy lifestyle," asserted that bootleg alcohol poses a greater risk to health. "Illegal vodka, all sorts of surrogate spirits of this kind start popping up when the legal products are overpriced," he reasoned.
"The overshoot of vodka prices leads only to increasing consumption of bootleg spirits. I think the relevant structures [government bodies] should think of that," Putin said at the meeting, according to Reuters.
Putin's call for a price cap comes as studies have proven that 25 percent of Russian men die before the age of 50 and the major reason of death was alcohol.
"We have to fight [alcoholization] in sane ways," said Putin.
News of a possible price cap on vodka in Russia first emerged earlier this month as its currency ruble started to lose against the dollar. Also, with inflation set to reach 7.4 percent next year, a price cap was inevitable.
Government officials told The Moscow Times that the administration was trying to rein in the prices "to freeze excise taxes on spirits at 100 rubles per half-litre through 2015."
The ruble's fall has also fuelled demand for vodka. In the past few years, beer gained much popularity in Russia but as the currency started weakening, it saw many resorting to their native liquor.
"In the beginning of 2000s, consumption of vodka was falling every year, replaced by the consumption of beer. The alcohol-abuse-related death rate was also down at the time," Kirill Bolmatov, spokesperson for Heineken Russia was quoted by Quartz as saying to The Moscow Times.
A cap, if formulated, will not have any effect on international vodka prices because most of the brands are packaged by companies outside Russia.