Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations Yankee Doodling

Big Tobacco lights up e-cigarettes

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 24 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3418

Rapid Response:

Re: Big Tobacco lights up e-cigarettes

Drinking alcohol as a stress coping strategy [1] has rarely been discussed in the CIS. It was believed that individuals resorting to alcohol due to their insufficient adaptive capacities constitute only a small part of drinkers [2]. During the Soviet time, even beyond the anti-alcohol campaigns, alcoholic beverages were not as easily available as in many other countries: number of bottle stores was limited, queues were frequent. Beerhouses were rare and often overcrowded. Pouring out of vodka and wine had been rare (apart from some holiday resorts in the South) and disappeared almost completely after the anti-alcohol measures of 1972. Bars practically did not exist for non-privileged people. Therefore, it was difficult to buy a bottle of beer in case of an occasional demand such as stress. After standing in a queue, larger amounts of alcohol were usually taken and consumed. Analogously, people rarely came to a beerhouse for one drink: companies or couples usually stayed there for hours. Especially harmful was the almost complete disappearance of small (0.25l) bottles of vodka and prohibition of vodka sales after 7 p.m. in 1972, which predictably caused deeper intoxication of many people by wine surrogates [3].

In conclusion, technically limited availability of alcohol is one of the factors contributing to a deeper alcohol intoxication, binge drinking and smoking cigarettes. After Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, the quality of alcoholic beverages deteriorated, but they have become easily available. However, recent anti-alcohol measures in Russia, limiting availability of alcoholic beverages, and especially a prohibition of the small (0.33l) beer cans [4], contribute to alcohol consumption in higher doses and indirectly also to cigarette smoking: one cannot take for an occasional stress just a small can of beer, and has to buy a 0.5l bottle… or smoke a cigarette. Prohibition in some countries of the CIS of e-cigarettes [5], which are apparently an effective harm reduction tool [6], devoid of tar etc., is also unreasonable. All the above can be caused by indifference of decision-makers to the citizens' needs.


1. González AM, Cruz SY, Ríos JL, Pagán I, Fabián C, Betancourt J, Rivera-Soto WT, González MJ, Palacios C. Alcohol consumption and smoking and their associations with socio-demographic characteristics, dietary patterns, and perceived academic stress in Puerto Rican college students. P R Health Sci J 2013;2:82-88.

2. Piatnitskaia IN, Stochik AM. Alcoholism. In: Large Medical Encyclopedia. Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1974; v. 1, pp. 244-53.

3. Jargin SV. Re: Russian Report: Alcoholism and rising mortality in the Russian Federation. BMJ Rapid Response of 3 January 2013

4. Jargin SV. Anti-alcohol measures in Russia. BMJ Rapid Response of 9 March 2011

5. Vlassov V. Re: Big Tobacco lights up e-cigarettes. BMJ Rapid Response of 2 June 2013

6. Kośmider L, Knysak J, Goniewicz MŁ, Sobczak A. Electronic cigarette--a safe substitute for tobacco cigarette or a new threat? Przegl Lek. 2012;69(10):1084-9.

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 June 2013
Sergei V. Jargin
Peoples' Friendship University of Russia
Clementovski per 6-82