12 February 2013, 20:33

No smoking in Russia

No smoking in Russia

The Lower House of the Russian Parliament has passed the anti-tobacco bill, one of the strictest in Europe, in the third final reading.

Starting from this upcoming summer smoking will not be allowed in public buildings or on children’s playgrounds; cigarette advertisements will be prohibited; and it will be forbidden to put cigarette packs on display in stores. The deputies seem to have decided to protect children and non-smokers by imposing very strict regulations on Russian smokers (which is every third person in the country). The lawmakers want smoking to become unfashionable and expensive.

Announcer: The cigarette smoke above Russia is starting to dissolve. Members of Parliament have approved the government bill “on the protection of the population from the harmful effects of cigarette smoke and the consequences of tobacco consumption”. This document concerns all Russians, since we all breathe the same air and it needs to be as pure as possible. Along with the deputies, 80% of Russians share this perspective.

It’s important to note that smokers will have time to adjust to the changes since all the regulations will come into force gradually. Some restrictions will apply right away, while others will take about a year to come into force, Sergei Zheleznyak, Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament explains.

"On July 1st, 2013, after it is approved by the Federation Council and is signed by the President, the bill will come into force. Smoking rooms will be eliminated from government and municipal institutions and children’s, medical, sports, and religious establishments. Starting from July 1st, 2014, smoking rooms will disappear from railway stations and airports. However, special designated areas for smoking will be created no less than 15 meters away from transport infrastructure buildings. Also, there will still be a possibility of creating smoking rooms in office buildings, but they would have to be equipped with appropriate ventilation devices. A full ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants will come into force starting from the 1st of July of next year."

Russia used the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as the basis for its anti-tobacco bill. The World Health Organization’s treaty has been widely used abroad, where the fight for tobacco-free air has been going on for many years. The Russian bill is strict but balanced and is no different from similar bills adopted in many other countries, Deputy Health Minister of Russia, Sergey Velmyaykin noted. In fact, there’s even stricter anti-tobacco legislation. For example, Finland has declared a total war on smoking and by 2025 the country plans to join the Kingdom of Bhutan, where there are no cigarettes on sale and smoking isn’t allowed anywhere. In the US state of Illinois you can go to jail for 1 year for smoking in a car in the presence of a child younger than 8 years old. And just in general, almost all countries ban smoking in public places and substantial fees are imposed on those who break the law, Sergey Velmyaykin added.

Already starting from May of this year, Russia will see cigarette packs with photos of the worst consequences of smoking, such as lung cancer, periodontisis and other grave medical conditions. It’s interesting to note that the anti-tobacco bill will affect everything that has an indirect connection to smoking, for example, candy and chewing gum shaped like cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes will also be banned because, according to the lawmakers, such items indirectly harm human health by acting as advertisements of smoking. All tobacco ads will be banned from mass media, including the internet. If somebody decides to include a smoking scene in their movie, they would have to prove that it is vital for the film, before it’s allowed in the final cut. All law-breakers who decide to smoke in public places will have to pay substantial fines: 3000 rubles, or about 100USD.

One of the reasons why smoking is so wide-spread in Russia is because tobacco products are fairly cheap in this country and the taxes on tobacco are actually several times lower than in Europe. The government plans to raise the taxes for cigarette manufacturers and spend the tax money on health needs and the propaganda of a healthy life-style.

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