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MOSCOW, October 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Within the State Duma there has emerged a powerful lobby supportive of the idea of banning tobacco companies from sponsoring sports and cultural events. This proposal became the main theme of the meeting of the socially conservative club of the United Russia party, Civic Platform, held at the lower house of parliament.
The participating legislators and experts discussed, in particular, the article of a law, being developed by the Health and Social Development Ministry on the protection of the population from the consequences of tobacco consumption, concerning the prohibition of "sponsorship by tobacco companies, including any contribution to the organization and holding of all events and activities in the field of education and physical education, sports, health and culture." It is also proposed to prohibit "the tobacco companies from providing any assistance to educational, cultural and sports and charitable organizations, educational institutions and culture."
This initiative has not yet reached the State Duma, however, assured the representatives of the parliamentary majority. When it does, it is likely to receive support, because it is directed at implementing the requirements of the Russian Federation-ratified WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. At this stage of the bill significant adjustments can be made and potential conflicts eliminated.
According to the coordinator of the Civic Platform, deputy chairman of the Duma committee on science and high technology, Igor Igoshin, the introduction of such restrictions will be "difficult." Recalling that today in Russia about 38 percent of the population smokes, he stressed that "more than half of them smoke at least a pack a day."
"The result of this is monstrous, tobacco consumption-related diseases kill 350-500 thousand people in Russia each year," the legislator said.
According to sociological research, Igoshin said, "the proposal for a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship by cigarette manufacturers is supported by about 82 percent."
"But it is precisely because the issue concerns such a large number of people we should not overdo it in taking such a decision, we must carefully weighed everything," he warned.
The deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee for public associations and religious organizations, Sergei Markov, said he had no doubts the legislators “must fully support the bill’s adoption," but he also said that "the harmful effects of tobacco promotion were disproportionate with the financial help that public organizations get as a result of such sponsorship."
The deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee on education Gadzhimet Safaraliev, too, called the proposed legal ban quite reasonable. "Advertising by tobacco companies to promote their brand at crowded cultural and sports events, in fact, is directed at the most vulnerable group of potential smokers - children and adolescents," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the center of philanthropy Involvement Tatiana Bachinskaya, warned that the proposed bill in its current form could be misconstrued, as it refers to "the provision of any assistance by tobacco companies."
"There is a feeling that the ban applies to any corporate philanthropic activities by tobacco companies," she said.
In turn, an assistant to the Minister of Health and Social Development, Irina Nikitina, explained that it was only about the help tobacco companies extended in the form of sponsorship and that looked like advertising. The bill says nothing about prohibition of charity activities as such, she said.
"We need to clarify the concept of sponsorship, which is proposed in the bill," Nikitina agreed.