Despite opposition, Russia bans smoking in restaurants and bars

Fri May 30, 2014 12:51pm EDT
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By Alexander Winning

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia risks igniting the ire of its 44 million smokers when it extends bans on cigarettes to restaurants and bars on Sunday as part of a battle to break the habit in one of heaviest-smoking countries in the world.

The ban is the latest measure under President Vladimir Putin to promote healthy lifestyles - which goes hand in hand with his support for what he calls traditional values - and stem a population decline that began after the Soviet breakup.

Putin's government hopes to reduce the share of the adult population that smokes from 39 percent, one of the highest rates in the world, to 25 percent by 2020.

"Thanks to this law people understand that smoking is bad and that smoking around others is a crime," said Sergei Kalashnikov, head of the Public Health Committee in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.

"The point has been forcefully made and people will be punished for ignoring the law," said Kalashnikov, who represents the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

Russia began introducing tougher controls on smoking last summer, banning smoking in government buildings and advertising by tobacco companies.

From June 1, smoking will also be banned in bars, restaurants, hotels and on trains, and cigarettes will no longer be on display in shops or sold in kiosks. Many other nations already have similar restrictions.

"We relied on U.S. and European research for this law. In this respect, we completely trust our colleagues in the West," Kalashnikov said, adding that foreign tobacco firms - which control about 90 percent of the $20 billion Russian market - had lobbied intensely against the law.   Continued...

A man smokes a cigarette at a cafe in central Krasnoyarsk in Siberia January 24, 2013.  REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin