Thursday, May 17, 2007

The last of this series of long delayed entries. I’ve been catching up with events during the past few weeks on the flight back from Tallinn, in Estonia. Building on our work in Russia we have recently been awarded a major Wellcome Trust grant to study in more detail the causes of premature mortality in Russia and Estonia.
As readers will be aware, this is not the easiest of times to be conducting research involving both Russia and Estonia, given the recent tensions between the two countries. When I logged onto the BBC before breakfast this morning one of the
headline stories concerned an apparent attempt to block many Estonian internet sites (government ministries, banks etc.) with an avalanche of messages, some of which seem to originate from Russian state servers. Still, at least researchers can manage to transcend these political disagreements….
Given the easy availability in Russia of alcohol containing substances that, in theory, are not sold for drinking but in reality are, we had been interested to see whether they could also be bought in Estonia. In an earlier
paper we showed that this was the case. These substances, such as aftershaves and firelighting liquids, are cheap and easy to buy and, as we showed last year, contain very high concentrations of alcohol. Our more recent work sought to understand the nature of the market for these products. A major source are the kiosks that can be found on many Estonian streets. Aftershaves seem to be their main product line, although they also sell washing powder, pet food, and condoms, a rather eclectic mix. We think we can link them all together but we are still speculating. Watch this space!

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