Apr. 25 2008
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the law recently approved by the State Duma making Russia the latest nation to join the World Health Organization’s international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Russia’s ratification of the treaty is an important step toward reducing tobacco use and potentially saving millions of lives in one of the world’s heaviest-smoking nations. With this action Russia becomes the 155th nation to ratify the tobacco treaty.
Ratification of the treaty is only the first step. For the treaty to truly have an impact on the nation’s health, it is critical that Russia quickly and effectively implement the scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use called for by the treaty. These measures include:
Russia’s current health warnings on tobacco products cover just 5 percent of the package and are often difficult to read due to the use of light colors. The most effective pack warnings cover 50 percent or more of the package and contain graphic images of tobacco’s harm. Such warnings are in use in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and other countries.
A comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is also critical to reducing tobacco use. Currently, Russia permits tobacco advertising in many forms, including metro billboards, print media, and individual promotional activity such as in bars and restaurants.
In addition, Russia currently has one of the lowest tax rates on cigarettes in Europe, only 13 percent of the retail price. In comparison, the European Union requires cigarette taxes to be at least 57 percent of retail price and most EU countries far exceed this percentage. This tax differential is a factor in Russia being one of the largest sources of smuggled and other illicit tobacco in the world.
Russia also needs to strengthen protections from deadly secondhand tobacco smoke by requiring that all workplaces and public places be smoke-free. The tobacco treaty obligates ratifying countries to adopt effective protections against secondhand smoke, and standards adopted by the treaty’s governing body state that only comprehensive smoke-free laws that include all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, meet the treaty’s requirements.
Currently, all public areas in Russia, with the exception of public transport, have smoking areas. Public health authorities worldwide have concluded that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases and premature death and that there is no safe level of exposure. Secondhand smoke has been proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.
Russia’s ratification of the tobacco control treaty is an important milestone in protecting the nation’s health.
Tobacco use kills some 400,000 Russians every year, and the number of Russian smokers is among the highest in the world with more than one-third of the population smoking. Sixty percent of Russian men and up to 30 percent of Russian women smoke.
According to Euromonitor International, Russia ranks fourth worldwide in annual per capita consumption, with approximately 2,665 cigarettes smoked.