News / Europe

Despite Opposition, Russia Bans Smoking in Restaurants and Bars

FILE - A man smokes along a street in central Moscow
FILE - A man smokes along a street in central 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.

Stringent Regulation

International tobacco companies, whose dwindling sales in Western markets have been offset for years by hefty Russian consumption, say the new rules go too far.

Alexander Lyuty, communications director at British American Tobacco in Moscow, said data showing that Russia's tobacco market shrank 7 percent last year failed to take account of surging contraband imports from other Soviet republics.

"Cigarette prices are rising faster than consumers' disposable incomes. This triggers an inflow of contraband and reduces sales of legal cigarettes in the market,'' he said.

Kalashnikov said the government was planning a further hike in excise taxes, which have already risen sharply this year, to increase pressure on smokers to quit.

Excise taxes typically account for 60 percent of the price of a pack of cigarettes in Europe, while in Russia they still only make up 17 percent of the cost, he said.

Roman Grinchenko, an analyst at Investcafe, said tougher regulation was likely to apply "significant pressure" to tobacco producers but that its financial impact was hard to quantify.

Fewer Customers

Bar and restaurant owners are fiercely opposed, fearing bans will cut business. Egor, 24, a barman working in central Moscow, said: "People are going to think: Why should I go to bars if they're not going to let me smoke there?"

According to a recent poll by the independent Russian pollster, Levada Center, 82 percent of Russian restaurateurs expect customer numbers to drop from Sunday.

The World Health Organization says that smoking kills 5.4 million people worldwide every year. But for Russia's hardened smokers, the ban is nothing short of discrimination.

"I can understand those who want to prevent young people smoking. But when a law is passed which is in essence a law on the genocide of smokers - that I can't understand,'' said Mikhail Barshchevsky, a lawyer, at a recent smokers' rights conference.

"The law is senseless and won't be observed," he said.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs