Russian Government Vows Tough Tobacco Control Legislation

October 16, 2012


UPDATE (Oct. 18, 2012): Following Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's speech earlier this week, Russia's Cabinet of Ministers today approved the proposed tobacco control legislation. The bill is expected to be sent to the Duma, or parliament, soon.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev today vowed to enact strong tobacco control legislation in the face of unrelenting opposition from tobacco companies.

'We can no longer tolerate tobacco companies making profits on our children and turn them into life-time tobacco consumers. It's immoral,' Medvedev said in a video posted on his website.

The legislation, which was proposed by President Vladimir Putin, would ban cigarette advertising, prohibit smoking in public places by 2015 and limit places where cigarettes can be sold. The legislation is expected to be submitted to parliament by November 1. A separate measure would increase excise taxes on cigarettes by 135 percent over the next three years.

Smoking kills about 400,000 Russians each year, which Medvedev described as a 'terrifying figure equivalent to the population of one big city.'

Russia is the world’s second largest cigarette market. Nearly 40 percent of all Russians smoke, including 60 percent of men, and cigarette packs cost little more than $1 on average.

Putting their profits ahead of health and lives, tobacco companies are aggressively fighting the legislation.

'The lobbying effort is huge,' Sergei Kalashnikov, head of the Russian parliament's health committee, told The Wall Street Journal. 'We feel tremendous pressure. The tobacco lobby is quite well organized.'

Tobacco companies with the largest market share in Russia are Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.

The Journal's story noted that tobacco control measures have strong support from the Russian public. A poll last year by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 81 percent — including 63 percent of smokers — backed a ban on smoking in public.

Russia ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — the world's first international health treaty — in 2008. This proposed legislation represents a major step in implementing the proven tobacco control policies called for by the treaty to reduce tobacco’s deadly toll.