News / Europe

Russia Tries to Kick Habit with Anti-Smoking Law

People smoke outside a shopping mall in downtown Moscow, Russia, June 1, 2013.
People smoke outside a shopping mall in downtown Moscow, Russia, June 1, 2013.
Reuters
Tobacco restrictions came into force in Russia on Saturday which President Vladimir Putin hopes will create a healthier workforce and help reverse a population decline, but they face stiff opposition in a country where four in ten people smoke.
 
The measures, part of a law Putin signed in February, include a ban on smoking at schools and universities, museums, sports facilities, hospitals and on public transport - in many cases places where it is already prohibited.
 
A minimum price for cigarettes is expected to be set next January and the biggest challenge to Russia's cigarette culture will come in June 2014: a ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants and hotels, and on tobacco sales at street kiosks.
 
Nearly 40 percent of Russians smoke, compared with 27 percent in the United States and 30 percent in France, according to the World Health Organization’s latest figures.
 
The average Russian life expectancy is 69, against 79 in the United States and 82 in France, according to the World Bank.
 
There are doubts about enforcement, and widespread debate among Russians over the impact of the new law.
 
Adopting it was the right thing to do, said Moscow resident Alexander. “I plan to quit smoking and hope this will help.”
 
But opponents say it will not work and infringes on the rights of smokers. “Our country is not ready for this law,” said prominent legal expert Mikhail Barshchevsky, likening it to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's unpopular effort to crack down on drinking under his “perestroika” reforms of the late 1980s.
 
“This is not a law about fighting smoking, it's a law on genocide against smokers.”
 
He said fines ranging from 500 to 1500 roubles ($15-$50) could lead to bribe-taking by police.
 
The law is designed to gradually bring the country in line with an international tobacco control pact and wean its citizens off a habit that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said kills almost 400,000 Russians every year.
 
Russia's population fell to 142 million in 2011 from 149 million in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, and experts warn it will fall further.
 
Putin, who could seek another six-year term in 2018, wants the population to increase instead, and has urged Russians - particularly young people - to live healthier lives.
 
Restrictions that came into force on Saturday also included a ban on smoking within 15 metres (50 feet) of entrances to airports, subway, train and bus stations, and in the stairwells of apartment buildings, and a reduction in the number of places where tobacco can be sold.
 
“It's a big step in strengthening the position of our society about the absolute evil that is smoking, but ... I think less has been done than could have been,” Russia's consumer protection agency chief, Gennady Onishchenko, said on Friday.
 
In an early sign that enforcement may be a challenge, police said that for the first few weeks at least, they will issue violators verbal warnings but not fines.
 
The reason, according to Ekho Moskvy radio, is not mercy toward smokers but a legal oversight - the administrative code has not yet been adjusted to conform with the anti-tobacco law.
 
“In some cases it is not clear how these measures will be implemented and enforced,” said Alexander Lioutyi, corporate affairs director of British American Tobacco's Russian division.
 
“Who will monitor violations of the law, as the number of policemen in Russia remains the same?” he said.
 
He said it was too early to evaluate the effect on Russia's $20 billion a year cigarette market, about 90 percent of which is controlled by foreign firms such as BAT, Imperial Tobacco , Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris.
 
On the streets of Moscow, pack-a-day smoker Igor Kolesnichenko, 40, shrugged after lighting up outside a store were he bought cigarettes. “I'm not sure what is changing now but I don't plan to quit,” he said.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs