Russia’s Smokers Must Take It Outside, As Ban Begins

By Bill Chappell NPR

It’s now illegal to light up in Russia’s bars, restaurants and other public spaces, as a national smoking ban went into effect this month. Russian officials say the ban could save 200,000 lives a year in a country known for having many heavy smokers.

In 2009, the Russian Federation consumed 2,786 cigarettes per capita, according to the Tobacco Atlas, put out by the World Lung Foundation.

From Moscow, NPR’s Corey Flintoff reports for our Newscast unit:

“International tobacco companies have been lobbying intensely against the anti-smoking laws for years. Foreign companies control about 90 percent of the Russian market, which is worth about $20 billion a year.

“But smoking-related disease is estimated to kill more than 400,000 Russians a year, and has contributed to the country’s population decline.

“The new laws ban smoking in bars, restaurants, hotels and aboard railway trains. A recent survey among bar owners found that 80 percent of them think the ban will hurt their business.”

Russian cigarette smokers have also been pressured by higher prices. Ria Novosti reports that the excise tax on tobacco has risen four times in the past five years.

Speaking to the news agency, Alexander Lioutyi of British American Tobacco Russia says the new ban will likely be “problematic” in the winter, when dedicated smokers will have to leave cafes and nightclubs to grab a smoke in temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

President Vladimir Putin signed the smoking ban into law in February. To support the ban, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev cited a study that found a ban could prevent as many as 200,000 smoking-related deaths in a year.

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