Russia aims to crack down on smoking

MOSCOW — Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and other cigarette makers hooked Russian women and children on smoking, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, vowing to crack down on the habit.

A ban on public smoking and cigarette advertising that will take effect under a proposed law and higher taxes on tobacco products are “just the beginning” of a campaign to counter high mortality rates, Medvedev said in a video on his blog Tuesday. Four tobacco companies have controlled the Russian market since the early 1990s, he said.

“Unfortunately in the 1990s, the government didn’t evaluate the risks of foreign tobacco companies’ investments” that went into advertising and designing lighter cigarettes that harmed women’s and children’s health, Medvedev said. The anti-tobacco bill, to be submitted to Parliament this month, is aimed at “protecting all these and other people.”

In Russia, the world’s second-largest market for cigarette makers after China, 39 percent of the population are regular smokers, according to the World Health Organization. About 400,000 Russians, or 0.3 percent of the population, die each year from smoking-related diseases, Medvedev said. That compares with 114,000, or 0.2 percent in Britain.

The government is due to submit a bill to lawmakers by Nov. 1, proposing to outlaw all cigarette advertising and sponsorship as well as kiosk sales immediately, with bans on cigarette trade in all smaller retail outlets and smoking in public places taking effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Philip Morris, BAT, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group have been fighting a last-ditch battle to water down the measures. The companies have asked for smoking sections in bars and restaurants, fewer restrictions on sales and a continuation of sponsorship.

“Many people claim these measures discriminate against smokers, but today almost 60 percent of adults and all children, including new-born babies, are discriminated against by smokers themselves,” Medvedev said. “They are forced to inhale poisonous cigarette smoke even though they didn’t choose to be smokers.”