Improving Russia’s health through smoking ban

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June 26, 2014
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Photo of a man placing a no-smoking sign on the window of a building.
A man placing a no-smoking sign on the window of a building. © Alexander Kondratuk, RIA Novosti

thinkRUSSIA takes a closer look at a recent Russia’s anti-tobacco legislation aimed at improving Russian health

Having launched the Decade of Sport, Russia not only promotes sport activities, but also tackles another end of the initiative – citizens’ health and well being. Since June 1, 2014, Russia has joined the wide range of international countries that prohibit smoking in public places.

Anti-tobacco legislation in Russia

Russia’s ban on smoking in public places took effect on June 1 as the government pressed on with a crackdown on tobacco consumption in the face of protests from cigarette makers. This legislation became the second part of a large-scale legislation aimed at improving Russian citizen’s health.

The first part of the ban, which went into effect in June 2013, officially outlawed lighting up in public transport services, trains stations and airports, schools, universities, healthcare and sport facilities, workplaces, state administrations premises as well as in elevators and housing block stairwells. This measure has already bared its fruits: within a year the number of cigarette smokers in Russia decreased by 12 percent, according to the state statistics agency Rosstat.

This stricter part of Russia’s anti-tobacco law came into force on June 1, 2014, expanding the smoking ban across cafes and restaurants, hotels and marketplaces, as well as long distance trains, train stations and ships.

The anti-tobacco law now includes the following rules

  • Street kiosks are no longer able to sell cigarettes, only large shops and supermarkets are allowed to sell tobacco. A minimum price for a pack of cigarettes will be set.
  • The new legislature prohibits the displaying of acts of smoking on screen and on stage.
  • Cafe and restaurant owners must remove all ashtrays and hang warning signs to inform customers that smoking is prohibited inside the establishment.
  • The cigarette packs will now be hidden from customers at the point of sale in large shops and supermarkets.
  • The legislation bans advertising and sponsorship of events by tobacco companies.
  • All nicotine addicts will be able to get medical help free of charge.

The anti-tobacco legislation is designed to gradually bring Russia in line with an international tobacco control pact and wean the country’s citizens off a smoking habit. Russia hopes to reduce the share of the adult population that smokes to 25 percent by 2020.

According to a poll conducted by Russian Public Opinion Research Center, VCIOM, 76 percent of Russia’s population – both smokers and non-smokers – welcomed the idea of banning smoking in all public places. The outlawing of tobacco advertising imposed by the law is supported even more with 79 percent of Russians supporting the initiative.

Smoking bans in Europe

Smoking bans are common place across most European countries, some more strict than others. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the ban came into force in July 2007 as a consequence of the Health Act 2006. This made smoking illegal in all workplaces, including restaurants and pubs selling food. There are, however, some surprising exceptions, such as bus shelters, phone boxes, hotel rooms, prisons, television sets and stages.

In Germany, the smoking ban was introduced almost six months earlier than in the United Kingdom on January 1, 2007. But the government saw that small bars could not offer separate smoking areas and were hence at a disadvantage. So the government allowed these establishments to permit smoking for a defined transitional period, providing they didn’t sell food on their premises. In practice, the smoking ban is generally observed in cafés, theatres and restaurants (where food is served), but not in bars. Clubs and discos must, officially, have a separate smoking room. The added complication is that the smoking ban is applied differently at the regional level due to the federal governance system that prevails in Germany.

In France, smoking was first restricted in 1991 with the Evin law. But the main smoking ban came in February 2007 and applies to enclosed public places such as offices, schools, government buildings and restaurants. Law officials may enforce the laws with minimum fines set at 500 euros. Unlike Germany, there are no exceptions for smoking in France, even special smoking rooms are banned. Only during the New Years Day is the smoking ban lifted. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of French citizens agree with the ban.

Is smoking banned in your country? How do you think it improves people’s health?

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