|Picture from website of Russian organisation which opposes drinking, smoking and drug dependency|
Alcohol and tobacco sales to be limited from 1st April
From 1st April this year sales of alcohol and tobacco are to be banned in shops and stalls located within a 500-metre radius of schools, sports facilities and religious institutions.
The measure, which has taken Uzbekistan’s drinkers and smokers by surprise, has been introduced under a new law “On limiting the availability and consumption of alcohol and tobacco”, which was signed by President Islam Karimov on 5th October last year.
Sellers of wine and spirits are very despondent about the new measures, and there are noticeably fewer bottles of beer, wine and spirits on the shelves of some shops.
“In Tashkent there are very few places where you would not find a school, nursery, or other institution included in this law, within a distance of 500m,” said one manager at a Gradus off-licence.
He said that, of the three shops in the Gradus chain, only one will be able to stay open after 1st April, while the other two will be forced to close.
“They say that wine and spirit shops forced to close because of the new law, will be relocated away from the city centre, but this will be very inconvenient both for sellers and buyers,” the shop worker said.
Shops in the Legion chain, which sell foreign wines and spirits, have already succumbed to government pressures on their trade. They have been shut down, and there are notifications on their doors from the prosecutor, tax authorities and department for foreign-currency operations. It is not clear whether the closures are linked to the new law, and the company itself is not answering telephone calls.
Erkin, the manager of one grocery store in Chilanzar said, “100 metres from our shop there is a nursery school, which means we will have to stop selling tobacco products from 1st April.” This will have a significant impact on the shop’s profits, he says.
“I can’t understand how the nursery will benefit from the fact that we will no longer be selling tobacco,” says Erkin. He believes there must be a mistake in the text of the legislation.
“To ban the sale of cigarettes and alcohol might be possible within a 50m radios of a school, nursery, mosque or stadium, and that would be understandable, but to specify 500 metres, is completely unrealistic,” Erkin claims.
People living in Tashkent have expressed a variety of opinions about the forthcoming changes in trading laws.
“Men will drink and smoke less, and will have more money to spend on things they need at home,” says 25-year-old Nargis.
Andrei Petrovich, aged 60, has a very different view. “I will find somewhere to buy my tobacco and alcohol, and if the worst comes to the worst, I’ll brew it in my own distillery at home,” he claims.
Other people feel that the new law will make little difference to their lives. Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes can easily be obtained in the many restaurants and cafés situated in every neighbourhood.
The limits that are about to be imposed do not apply to catering establishments where the sale of alcohol will be permitted.