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    RUSSIA LEADING IN TOBACCO SMOKING STATISTICS

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    MOSCOW, November 17 (RIA Novosti) - "Russia ranks third after China and the United States in terms of tobacco smoking," Nikolai Gerasimenko, deputy chairman of the State Duma health committee, said to reporters on Wednesday.

    In his words, the main problem in tobacco consumption is that the majority of smokers are children and teenagers. Another problem in Russia is that smoking is being feminized. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of Russian men and 30% of Russian women are tobacco smokers.

    "It has been proved worldwide that smoking is the main reason causing lung cancer," said Mr. Gerasimenko.

    He noted that 300,000 people die from smoking, and 450,000 from alcoholic addiction in Russia every year.

    According to Mr. Gerasimenko, the State Duma has recently started to address the smoking and alcoholism problems more actively.

    After Russia signs the WHO anti-smoking convention, the State Duma intends to toughen legal restrictions on smoking, said Nikolai Gerasimenko. "If the convention is signed, it will be followed by amendments to the draft law on smoking," he said. The addenda to the law will include a ban on tobacco advertising signboards, and Russian tar and nicotine norms will be brought into line with international standards, while the warning signs on cigarette packs will be increased in size.

    Mr. Gerasimenko believes that the amount of tars and nicotine in Russian cigarette is too high. "The harm caused by Russian cigarettes is far more serious than the harm from Western cigarettes," he said. Nikolai Gerasimenko recalled that the State Duma had sent a parliamentary enquiry in the name of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov with a request to speed up Russia's signing of the WHO anti-smoking convention. Russia has not yet signed the convention for "technical" reasons due to the government reorganization, said Mr. Gerasimenko.

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