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Russia adopts harsh anti-smoking law

February 13, 2013, 14:28 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russia is determined to make life far harder for its smokers. The State Duma on Tuesday almost unanimously voted for a harsh anti-tobacco law. Many have welcomed this move. However, human rights activists are calling for the observance of the balance of rights of smokers and non-smokers.

Smoking inside the buildings of bodies of state power, universities, hospitals, sports stadiums and restaurants, on the trains, at railway stations and near entrances to metro stations will be completely prohibited as of June 1. Smoking rooms and areas will remain at factories and offices. However, a number of the law’s provisions will become effective as of June 1, 2014. As of that date smoking will be outlawed at health-building centers, on long-distance trains, on aircraft and sea-going ships, on urban and suburban commuter transport and nearer than 15 meters to the entrances to railway and metro stations and airports.

Also, starting from 2014 smoking will be banned at hotels, public catering establishments and on the commuter rail platforms. Under the bill tobacco companies will be prohibited from holding lotteries or sponsoring festivals. Cigarettes will be removed from the shop windows. Only price lists will be available at cashiers' desks.

Trade in electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco will be banned, just as all advertising of tobacco, including ads in the Internet.

Amendments are expected to be made to the Code of Administrative Offences establishing specific fines for abusing the law. A number of legislators have already suggested a three-thousand-ruble fine (an equivalent of 100 dollars) for smoking at public places.

State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak has said that he sees “nothing terrible in the fact that smoking employees of the State Duma’s staff and reporters will have to step outside for a cigarette.” If chilly weather outdoors makes them to quit smoking, Zheleznyak said, “it will be just great." He believes that the bodies of state power and municipal authorities must give an example to everybody else.

“This day will go down in the history of Russian statehood as a day of fundamental, serious and systemic step towards preserving the health of the nation,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko said about the adoption of the law.

According to the statistics he cited an average 400,000 die in Russia from tobacco-related diseases, but more than 60 percent of men and 20 percent of women keep smoking. A total of 400 billion cigarettes are made in Russia a year, although the country does not grow tobacco at all.

Human rights activists have been calling for a sound balance of the rights of non-smokers and smokers.

“I believe that this law should be introduced, but everything must be done to ensure the balance of the rights of non-smokers and smokers be observed. Regrettably, as it is often the case, we tend to overdo it either way,” the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, said.

A member of the Public Chamber and presidential Council for Human Rights, Anatoly Kucherena, too, has called for a balance. He is certain that the struggle against smoking “should not be turned into a time-serving campaign,” and “the wave of fine words and proposals should not infringe in the rights of people who smoke.”

The just-adopted anti-tobacco law will reduce the number of smokers, but its effects will manifest themselves no earlier than in 5-7 years’ time, says the chief narcologist of the Novosibirsk Region, Ravil Terkulov, who is quoted by the portal.

"I believe that this is a good law, which is really aimed at preserving the social well-being of the country, the democratic potential and life expectancy. This method of 'social pressure' should be employed," the expert believes.

In his opinion, the nation will experience the first favorable effects in five to seven years from now. However, it may turn out that a much longer period may be necessary, because the opponents of the law will be devising all sorts of loopholes to sidestep any restrictions, he expert said.

“On the whole the restrictive measures will eventually change people’s mentality,” Terkulov said with certainty.


MOSCOW, February 13