Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is urging his country's citizens to smoke more cigarettes and drink more alcohol, as indulging those habits can apparently do wonders for the local economy.
Kudrin's unconventional advice comes just as Russia prepares to raise excise duty on both tobacco and alcohol sales -- and higher consumption of both commodities could help lift tax revenues for spending on social services.
"People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state," Kudrin said, as quoted by the Interfax news agency. "If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates."
At present, Russian duties on cigarettes are among the lowest in Europe, with most brands priced at around 40 rubles (roughly $1.30) per pack, according to reports. In June, Russia's Finance Ministry announced plans that could effectively raise the price from 250 rubles per 1,000 filtered cigarettes to 590 rubles ($19.20) by 2013. Given that 65 percent of the nation's men smoke cigarettes and the average Russian consumes 19 liters of alcohol (mostly vodka) each year, the price increase is likely to be unpopular.