Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From Geneva to Tallinn, in Estonia. I left behind a warm Swiss autumn to change planes in a freezing, snow-swept Helsinki, so different from how it had been when I was last here in September.
I was working with colleagues in Tartu, Estonia’s other main city, on a collaborative project seeking to understand the role of alcohol in the high death rate in this region.
Among other things, we were writing up a rapid situation analysis conducted in Tallinn.
Our focus was on aftershaves and a variety of technical spirits that, in practice, are sold for drinking. They come in 200 ml bottles and are a fraction of the price of vodka. They are sold in kiosks, whose owners seem to get most of their income from these products – the only other things they sell are petfood, washing powder and condoms. There is growing evidence from across this region that these cheap spirits are playing a key role in the high level of mortality, something that is the focus of our ongoing research in Estonia and Russia.