The Washington Post

Russia set to ban smoking in public places

A woman is reflected in a window displaying packs of cigarettes on a street in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk Jan. 24, 2013. Russian lawmakers have backed a law which would ban smoking in bars, cafes and other public spaces to promote healthier living in the world's largest tobacco market after China. (ILYA NAYMUSHIN/REUTERS)

Russia’s lower house of parliament Tuesday passed a bill prohibiting smoking in public places , an extraordinary measure in a country where about 60 percent of adult men smoke cigarettes.

The bill was proposed by the Health Ministry and energetically endorsed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in an effort to limit the harm caused by smoking. The measure is expected to be easily approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin within two weeks.

The lower house — the state Duma — gave the bill overwhelming approval, passing it by a vote of 441 to 1. One controversial element prohibiting special smoking rooms was modified, and the new measure now permits them in company offices.

“The good thing is that in the next year we will receive a smoke-free environment in restaurants, hospitals and public buildings,” said Dmitri Yanin, chairman of the Conference of Consumer Protection Societies. “It’s a big success.”

The All-Russia Movement for the Rights of Smokers had lobbied hard for the establishment of smoking rooms in businesses. “Too many bans means the law would not be enforced,” said Andrei Loskutov, executive director of the organization. “It would be humiliating for half of Russia’s population.”

Remember where these smokers live, he said. It’s a cold, cold climate, too harsh for smokers to be standing on sidewalks all winter long for a smoke.

Beginning June 1, smoking would be prohibited at schools and universities, at hospitals and clinics, at sports arenas, at playgrounds, at government buildings, in apartment building stairwells — a popular venue — and on most public transportation.

As of June 2014, the smoking ban would be extended to long-distance trains, hotels and shopping centers. Also, tobacco sales would be restricted to large stores — establishments with doors — ending sales at ubiquitous street kiosks.

In promoting the law, Medvedev said smoking kills about 400,000 Russians every year and endangers the health of the young by setting a bad example and exposing them to secondhand smoke. Nearly 22 percent of women and one-fourth of children age 13 to 15 smoke here.

The world’s biggest tobacco market is China, followed by Russia and then the United States. The Russian tobacco market is controlled by British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International.

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