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Distaff Dipsomania

The face of alcoholism in Russia is decidedly male, with high-profile characters like boozy former president Boris Yeltsin reinforcing the country's international image as some kind of eleven-time-zone Animal House with bears and balalaikas.

But apparently the problem has a distaff side that's only recently been brought to light, thanks to a recent product introduction that would be fairly uncontroversial in the West: a vodka designed especially for an upscale female clientele.

Called Damskaya (“Ladies”), it has prompted calls for a ban on its promotion because it may encourage alcoholism among women, a heretofore undiscussed epidemic covered up by cultural taboos, social stigma and the prominence given to the male alcoholism problem.

With its violet tinted bottles and lime, almond and vanilla flavorings, Damskaya is specifically marketed to Russia's growing crowd of upwardly mobile young women. Unlike standard Russian vodkas, which often taste like they were drained from the gas tanks of collective farm tractors, Damskaya is smooth, suitable either for drinking straight or in umbrella drinks.

The ads for the product are slick, Western-style productions that position Damskaya as a trendy, upscale accessory. The price — 300 rubles (about $12.50) — certainly puts it out of reach of the proletariat, but reinforces its aura of hip exclusivity.

That is the problem, say social reformers who are alarmed by any development that makes drinking glamorous. They would like to see a halt put to any further marketing, says a recent report in Reuters.

“More people suffer from diabetes in Russia than from alcoholism, but no one bans chocolate advertisements,” counters Igor Volodin (per Reuters), who is president of Deyros, the firm that sell Damskaya.

Get used to it, Igor. When modern marketing makes an appearance, modern food nags usually aren't far behind…

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