Russia launches anti-smoking crackdown

Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:51am EDT
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By Alissa de Carbonnel and Megan Davies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia launched a crackdown on smoking on Tuesday with a bill to ban tobacco advertising and raise taxes on cigarettes to help tackle a public health crisis in the world's second largest tobacco market after China.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a video blog that 44 million Russians, nearly one in three, were hooked on smoking, and almost 400,000 die every year of smoking-related causes.

Under Health Ministry proposals, tobacco advertising - now only allowed in some print media - would be outlawed, taxes increased on cigarette sales and smoking in cafes and other public spaces eventually banned.

The bill is expected to be submitted to parliament for approval in the coming days.

"Every year (the equivalent of) a large city disappears," Medvedev said. "The government has adopted an anti-tobacco strategy and today we are beginning to put it in place."

The habit of lighting up in Russia, where the air in bars, coffee shops and stairwells is thick with smoke, is encouraged by the cheap price of cigarettes. A pack typically costs around 50-60 roubles (less than $2).

While President Vladimir Putin is a non-smoker and has reprimanded ministers for smoking, some other top officials, such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are heavy smokers.

Some people on Moscow streets doubted the measures would have any effect. "People will smoke no matter what, its Russia," said Viktor, a salesman who did not give his surname.   Continued...

A student smokes on a street in Moscow October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov