03:30 GMT +3 hours25 November 2014
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Russian Health Inspector Draws Fire in Tobacco Bill Row

Russia
(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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Members of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, lashed out at chief health inspector Gennady Onishchenko, who threatened to initiate house dissolution proceedings if it watered down the draft antismoking law.

Members of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, lashed out at chief health inspector Gennady Onishchenko, who threatened to initiate house dissolution proceedings if it watered down the draft antismoking law.

The Russian Cabinet of Ministers approved a draft bill on Thursday that would ban smoking in public places, raise tobacco excise duties and ban tobacco advertising.

Onishchenko said on Monday that if the Duma does not adopt the bill as drafted by the Health Ministry, he would, as a citizen, raise the issue of the Duma’s dissolution.

The ruling United Russia party responded by suggesting that Onishchenko be dismissed.

“I believe that after such remarks Onishchenko should be fired immediately,” party member Andrei Makarov said, adding that he backs the bill.

His position was echoed by Communist Party deputy Nikolai Kolomeitsev, who called Onishchenko’s comments inappropriate.

“If the head of a federal agency wants to go into politics he should leave government,” Kolomeitsev said, adding that under the Constitution, only the president can dissolve the Duma.

Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said he intended to meet with Onishchenko to explain the ABCs of the country’s public institutions to him.

“Evidently Gennady Grigoryevich [Onishchenko] has some gaps in his understanding of the fundamentals of the rule-of-law based state, of how its institutions are formed and function,” Naryshkin said.

The bill envisages a gradual ban on smoking in public – from state buildings, educational and cultural sites, to sports stadiums and transport systems. Smoking would also be prohibited in bars, cafes and other public spaces, including playgrounds and train stations.

 

The draft bill would also ban cigarette sales in counters, the display of tobacco products, and images of smoking in any form of media for children, as well as raise tobacco duties and introduce a minimum price for cigarettes.