MOSCOW, October 18 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia’s government has approved an anti-tobacco bill imposing a complete ban on smoking at all public places, including cafes and restaurants, from 2015.
“This is a big problem and we are tackling it carelessly,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday at a government meeting. “We must move towards a civilized society, as the whole world is doing. It will surely bring about a favorable effect, which is measured in a great number of human lives.”
“Do you have any objections?” the prime minister asked. No one answered. “From you, it sounds twice as convincing. Agreed,” Medvedev summed up.
According to the prime minister, every fifth member of the Russian government is a smoker. “It is less than in terms of the entire country where every third citizen smokes,” he added.
After the government approval, the anti-tobacco bill will be submitted to the Russian State Duma lower parliament house. The bill provides for stage-by-stage measures restricting tobacco consumption. Some of such measures will come into force after the bill is passed into law, others will be imposed from July 1, 2014 and from January 1, 2016.
“Neither the government nor the state seek to fight against smokers but we are against smoking,” Medvedev said in his video blog on October 16. “Frankly speaking, more than 80 percent of our citizens, including two thirds of smokers, support anti-tobacco measures.”
People are afraid that the new anti-tobacco bill might discriminate smokers, the prime minister noted. “But today, about 60 percent of adults and all children, including newborns, are being discriminated by smokers – they have to breathe poisonous cigarette smoke whereas they do not want to be smokers,” he said. About a third of Russians have to be exposed to cigarette smoke at work.
A total of 44 million Russians are tobacco addicts, the prime minister cited statistics. More to it, Russia is the second after China tobacco market in the world. “This market is shared by four big foreign companies, each of which came to Russia in the early 1990s,” he said. “Regrettably, back then, in the 1990s, the state ignored the risks of foreign tobacco investments into the Russian economy. Having invested into advertising, design and the production of the so-called light cigarettes, these tobacco companies have doubled their sales, primarily among women and, regrettably, children.”
The number of female smokers tripled in the period from 1992 to 2010, from seven to 22 percent. “Smoking has become popular not only among the youth but also among older women,” Medvedev noted. “About a third of women living in mega cities are smokers. The age of smoking initiation has gone down from 15 in 1993 to 11 now. Now, two thirds of Russian adolescents aged from 13 to 16 have smoking experience and a third smoke regularly. The number of smokers among women aged from 40 to 50 has increased dramatically. Every year, some 400,000 schoolchildren aged from ten to thirteen try cigarettes, and practically a third of them eventually become smokers.”
“Our children get accustomed to cigarette smoke from the early childhood and try their first cigarette in elementary school. So, it is wrong to speak about smoking as a conscious choice of an adult,” Medvedev went on. “We must stop recruiting of smokers from among minors. It is wrong and immoral to let tobacco companies make profits out of the health of our children to make life-long tobacco users of them.”
“Children should not breathe cigarette smoke and take smoking as something usual at children’s establishments, at schools, universities, polyclinics, cafes,” he said.
The new bill, in his words, will protect “all these people and other people allowing smokers to smoke only where cigarette smoke will harm no one – outdoors.” According to Medvedev, this anti-tobacco initiative is “only the beginning of the road.”