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Soviets combat drunknness, which costs millions

The Soviet Union is preparing a major campaign against alcohol abuse. The move comes after admissions that alcoholism is now the single greatest cause of premature death in the country, and that alcohol abuse costs millions in lost production, absenteeism, and increased expenditures for health care.

The ruling Communist Party Politburo has approved ``a set of major, social, political, economic, administrative, medical, and other measures'' to combat what it called the ``ugly phenomenon'' of drunkenness and alcoholism.

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In what may be a preview of what the rest of the country can expect, authorities in the city of Ulyanovsk, on the Volga River, are cracking down on drunkenness.

According to newspaper reports, the sale of liquor at discoth`eques in Ulyanovsk has been banned. Drunken workers are being reported to their managers. Names of those disciplined are posted publicly. And, in some cases, workers' pay is being deposited into a bank account -- instead of being paid in cash, as is the custom here -- to prevent drinking binges on paydays.

Meanwhile, Soviet authorities have tried to discredit earlier reports about the extent of alcohol abuse in this country.

Late last year, a copy of what was purportedly a study on alcoholism by the Soviet Academy of Sciences surfaced in Moscow. Two European news agencies carried dispatches based on the document. Newspapers, including The Christian Science Monitor, later included excerpts from the document in reports. (This newspaper's report appeared on Jan. 23, 1985.)

Vladimir Treml, a Duke University professor, examined the document and concluded that it ``appears to be a forgery.''

``In all probability,'' Professor Treml wrote in the Radio Liberty Research Bulletin, ``it was written by a Soviet citizen who had some access to statistics on alcohol abuse in the USSR. Alarmed by the magnitude of the problem, he decided to publicize his findings and, to add more weight to what he had to say, he ascribed it to the Academy of Sciences.''

Treml wrote that some figures in the report may have been accurate, but others were clearly wrong and the study did not appear to be scientifically based. ``The true author of the report is not particularly competent to evaluate the situation.''

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