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Russia Faces Great Anti-Smoking Battle
October 22, 2012 22:59

Russian smokers have only two years to give up their harmful habit as the country`s government approves a harsh anti-smoking law for 2015. The law, which is already expected to be the main weapon in "the greatest battle” with Russia’s powerful tobacco lobby, seeks to ban smoking in public places, prohibit cigarette advertising and cut sales. It is planned to reach the Duma by November 1 and there are almost no doubt it will be approved. However, the law's categorical nature makes some people express fears about its appropriateness.
 The Russian Government's serious intentions became obvious after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had published a video appeal to Russians on his official website urging them to support the fight against smoking. In particular, he gave some results of different opinion polls about smoking in Russia, which are also supported by health officials and their statistics.
According to them, around 400,000 Russians succumb each year to smoking-related illnesses. Russians spent over 4 billion rubles (about $130 million) on tobacco products in 2011 alone. Some 44 millions of Russians are dependent from nicotine , this is a third of the population of the country, including children. The proportion of women smokers rising from 7 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2010. Russia now is a country with the most smokers in the world.
 Of course, it is obvious that something should be done in this direction. But still, many experts believe the new anti-smoking law is not prepared enough to be a really helpful tool, as it hardly takes into account the realities of the Russian market. In the first place it will probably harm small businesses, while doing nothing to guarantee a drop in smoking rates. Financial experts criticize the bill’s proposal to set a minimum price on cigarettes as well as boost the excise duty by nearly 50 percent. On average, cigarettes currently cost just $1.50 per pack. Such high prices as in the law will simply disturb the balance of the market.
Anti-smoking activists express other fears, which are usually linked to various lobbyists in Russia's government. There are a lot of lobbies that come up with various corrections and amendments and small changes in wording, making it totally ineffective. The main example is an anti-smoking law adopted in 2002, which had become absolutely useless because of numerous hidden amendments.
However, the law of 2012 is not the first serious attempt to attract people's attention to tobacco problem in Russia. According to the Russia's Health and Social Development Ministry's decision, graphic images depicting the impact of smoking on human health will appear on all cigarette packs in Russia starting from May 2013. Cigarette and tobacco packs in Russia currently only bear written warnings to smokers.
Smoking is a very complicated problem for every modern society. The governments always have a difficult choice between restricting smoking rates for people health and supporting their freedoms of behaviour. And only time will show if the Russian Government is capable to deal with this problem. 

Author: Julia Alieva

Tags: Russian law Smoking in Russia    


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