12 July, 2007

Pharmacies' advice for the Russian vacationer

Our ten year-old returned from a visit to the pharmacy with a glossy pamphlet titled, Памятка ОТПУСКНИКА, or, "Advice for the vacationer." I can understand why it caught his eye: over a yellow background, the outside of the pamphlet features a brown, human footprint and a giant blue, cartoonish lizard looking up at the reader. On the back one finds the web address www.kazan-apteki.ru; "apteka" is the Latin transliteration of the Russian word for "pharmacy", аптека. Must be real advice from real pharmacists, right?

Opening the pamphlet, one finds a diamond-shaped, yellow "warning" road sign spread across two pages, with an abstract depiction of rays coming out of the sun. Beneath the sign is another yellow sign, on which is written, ЛЕТО, "summer". This is all a little weird, since Russians roads don't sport the diamond-shaped, yellow and black warning signs that are ubiquitous in the States, but rather the circular, red, white, and black signs common in Europe. Marketing, I guess.

Open the pamphlet further and you find quite a bit of information printed over a drawing of a beach, replete with two pairs of feet resting beneath a red and white beach umbrella, and two more blue lizards looking up at the reader. Across the top one reads, Аптечка для здорового отдыха, which both my son and wife swear translates as, "First aid for a healthy vacation."

In the two center columns, the pamphlet advises in thin black type to consider from an enormous number of items for one's vacation: pills, creams, aerosols, the works. If I used this as a guide for packing, I'd get heartburn for sure, worrying about whether I'd forgotten anything. (Some of the pills listed may in fact treat heartburn, but I'm not going to waste any more time figuring that out.)

The outer two columns feature six items of advice in bold, red type, accompanied by red, white, and brown circular diagrams that resemble the warning signs for European roads. Some of the advice is not the sort of thing I expected. For instance, it seems odd to advise the reader not to wear sunglasses (item #2). It's not the advice that perturbs me (I never wear sunglasses, and wouldn't be caught dead in them unless I absolutely needed them), but the justification for it: the pamphlet claims that not wearing sunglasses contributes to a weight loss of 3-5kg. (For you non-metric speakers, that's up to 11 pounds). I find that incredible, but it must be true, since, according to the pamphlets, this information comes from American researchers. I have never heard this myself, but it says it right there, "Американскые ученые утверждают..."

It also seems odd to justify walking barefoot as often as possible (item #1) with the reasoning that it will stimulate nerve endings in the skin.

But what really takes the cake is the admonition to have sex no less than three times a week! Really! Here's the first line of item 6, copied verbatim:

6. Занимайтесь сексом не реже 3 раз неделю.
Besides the release of tension, the pamphlet encourages sexual intercourse as... well, a method to lose weight, since you burn more than 1000 Calories during the activity. (1000 kilocalories actually, but in the US we just say Calories.)

By this point I'm wondering if this pamphlet isn't some male pharmacist's idea of convincing women to buy a bunch more stuff, what with all the advice geared to losing weight. And pray tell, does this sex-related weight loss come before or after the child is born?

My son thought that #6 was gross. (I know, I know: in a few years, he'll have a completely different opinion. Don't remind me.) For my wife and me, it's become a kind of joke. I can't believe they're passing stuff like this off as medical advice for vacationers. Can it really be true? Must be, since it's in a pharmacy, right? And as we all know, European countries protect their consumers fiercely from the predations of corporations. I guess I'm a little too old-fashioned after all.

1 comment:

Clemens said...

Gee. Maybe Russian society is more enlightened than I thought.