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Ban to Boo Smokers
October 3, 2012 16:01

This October, the government is expected to consider the draft of a new federal law on the protection of people from tobacco smoke and the consequences of tobacco consumption.

According to the Russian Federal
Consumer Rights Protection Agency, up to 30 percent of women and 60 percent of men have been dependent on the bad habit. More and more teenagers and girls in particular are taking up smoking. Also, smokers are increasingly becoming younger. Russians consumed 375 billion cigarettes in 2011.

The government and experts have a common understanding that the tobacco industry needs to be regulated in a tougher way. But the only question is – how?

Smooth transition

As the world's best practices show, a gradual shift towards a full ban is preferable.

Four years ago, Russia ratified the anti-tobacco convention of the World Health Organisation. The government then launched anti-smoking advertising campaigns and ramped up the tobacco tax.  

A similar step-by-step approach has been reflected in the new bill, with the limitations being introduced not immediately but gradually until 2017.

The draft will prohibit the advertisement of cigarette brands, introduce horrifying graphic images on packs and set minimum retail price for all tobacco products.

Smoking is going to be banned in public places, including transport, airports and train stations.

Starting from 2015, hotels, cafes and nightclubs will become smoke-free zones, along with prisons and detention centres.

Saving lives

Despite the widespread opposition to the ban from by smokers the move appears to be the most effective way to curb the health impact – cutting the daily dose and protecting other people from passive smoking.

“Selling cigarettes is basically illegal if we look at it from the point of view of protecting consumer rights,” Deputy Health Minister Sergei Velmiaikin was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova told the Rossiya 1 TV Channel that the overall price of smoking for the country is too high – 6.5 per cent of the GDP. Men’s lives are nine years and women’s 6.5 shorter than they could have been. 288,000 people die in Russia annually due to smoke-related diseases.

Finland's and Norway's examples prove these steps can be effective in bringing down the number of smokers and the level of health damage. Overall, according to a World Bank report, tobacco consumption has dropped 4-10 percent worldwide. The shift in attitudes is important, too.

Producers to fight back

The tobacco lobby is likely to pull out all the stops to render the bill harmless.

“Russia is the second largest tobacco market after China even despite the huge difference in their populations. So it’s no wonder that manufacturers so forcefully attack the new draft bill,” the head of the international Confederation of Consumer Societies and anti-tobacco campaigner Dmitry Yanin was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying.

Bloomberg reports that “tobacco companies, which don’t break out Russian sales data, say a total ban on smoking in public places and on advertising cigarettes is too draconian, while ending kiosk sales will only end up hurting small businesses.”

However, state officials are adamant that the interests of some companies are different are different to the interests of the general public and that the ban would actually benefit businesses in the long-term.

Shock tactics

The new graphic images to be introduced are expected to drive the number of smokers further down. According to the World Health Organization, the Russian smoker consumes 17 cigarettes a day, so a typical smoker gets to have a look at their cigarette pack 120 times a week, which means there’s hope that pictures of gangrenes or soot-filled lungs will prevent people from lighting the next cigarette.

You can have a look at the images here. Proposals on the bill could be filed here (in Russian).

Previous articles on Russia-IC about smoking can be found here and here.

The government is expected to submit the bill to the State Duma by November 1.

If you need more stats or details on the bill, contact Russia-IC for translation services. 

A campaign to replace smoking with kissing in St. Petersburg.

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: Smoking in Russia Russian society health   

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