17 August 2011, 14:51

Will laws stop smokers?

Will laws stop smokers?
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Russia plans to introduce one of the world’s strictest anti-tobacco laws. If it is introduced, smoking will be banned in practically all public places, and it will be very difficult to find cigarettes on sale.  At present, smoking in public places is already banned in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Malta, the UK, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovenia and Greece.

Russia plans to introduce one of the world’s strictest anti-tobacco laws. If it is introduced, smoking will be banned in practically all public places, and it will be very difficult to find cigarettes on sale. 

At present, smoking in public places is already banned in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Malta, the UK, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovenia and Greece. 

The new Russian law, if adopted, will ban smoking in cafes, night clubs, airports, at railway stations, in planes, trains, passenger vessels, and hotels. These rules will start working from 2014. From 2013, cigarettes will be sold only in large supermarkets, and cigarette packs won’t be displayed on the counters – customers will only be able to choose the cigarette brand from the price list. 

“This draft law is a result of Russia’s signing the framework convention of the World Health Organization,” the President of Russian Association of Public Health Andrey Dyomin says:

“I can see no other way of ending the global tobacco epidemic than a total ban on tobacco products. We must hurry up with this law because, in Russia, 400 thousand people die every year from diseases caused by smoking. Besides, they spend a lot of money on killing themselves.” 

According to the data of Russia’s Ministry of Health, nearly 40% of Russians are active and 80% - passive tobacco smokers. It is planned that the first stage of the Russian anti-tobacco campaign will reduce the number of active smokers to 25%.

It would also be effective to discourage people from smoking by raising cigarette prices, initiators of the anti-tobacco program believe. The Russian Finance Ministry suggests to raise excise taxes for tobacco goods (it would be probably more correct to call them bads!) nearly by a half. This will make the average cost of a cigarette pack in Russia the ruble equivalent of € 1.5. (For comparison: in Europe, the current average price of a cigarette pack is somewhere from € 5 to € 11.) 

However, some people say that such measures will only encourage black marketers. Here is Vadim Zhilkin, the Chairman of the Russian Association of Tobacco Producers:

“If cigarette prices grow too quickly, here come black marketers. We can see this from the experience of Western Europe – there, the “official” cigarette prices are very high, and the black market makes up 15% to 20% of the whole tobacco market. In Eastern Europe, the “official” prices are even higher – and the share of the illegal market is 40% or more.”

The draft law also envisions a full ban on cigarette advertizing. Moreover, it is even suggested that in films and in theater productions, the characters – at least, the good ones – must not smoke. But, this suggestion raises many eyebrows – can you imagine, say, Sherlock Holmes without his famous pipe? And what should be done with old films – should episodes where good guys smoke be cut out of them (like it was with scenes of drinking during Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in 1985)? 

Film director Pyotr Schepotinnik does not seem to be happy with this decision:

“If you start doing that, you’ll have to ban practically all old films, both Soviet and foreign ones. Art, including cinema art, is something more than preaching about what is good and what is bad.”

The new draft law is being actively discussed online, and, of course, opinions differ – some bloggers praise the war on tobacco, some say that it’s an individual’s right to smoke. Somebody has even joked that, after banning smoking, eating after 6 p.m. must also be banned, for too many people now die of problems caused by overeating. 

However, the anti-tobacco campaign in Russia has already started. Zones for non-smokers have already appeared in airports, cafes and restaurants. Now, every cigarette pack produced in Russia bears an inscription in bold letters: “Smoking kills”, or, “Protect children from tobacco smoke!” In TV clips, popular actors break cigarettes, saying: “Give up smoking, give it up!”

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