The Russian government is using a squirrel in the throes of alcohol withdrawal in an attempt to scare its people into putting down the bottle. The animal was chosen as the star of a new anti-drinking ad because delirium tremens—the period when a withdrawing alcoholic starts to sweat, shake and hallucinate—is known as “belochka” or “little squirrel” in Russian. In the commercial, which has been viewed by more than a million people, the animated animal literally climbs up the walls. At the end, he warns: “Are you a boozer? Then I am coming to your place.”
The ad is part of Russia’s latest campaign to fight alcoholism, and thereby its decreasing population trends. A 2009 study published in The Lancet showed that 52 per cent of all Russian deaths among those aged 15 to 54 were related to alcohol. It was then estimated that more than three million working-aged Russians died as a result of alcohol in the 1990s—the decade during which the country’s population began to fall. And it’s still a problem: Russians drink more than twice what is considered healthy. But if the deranged squirrel doesn’t work, Moscow has another plan. Last January, it set its first minimum price for booze—$5.70 per litre.