Carrier says "nyet" to U.S. flight smoke ban
MOSCOW, Sept 27 (Reuters) - The health concerns of the anti-smoking U.S. public have gone too far for Aeroflot , the flagship airline of a country with one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world.
The Russian carrier said on Wednesday it wanted to overturn a prohibition on smoking on its flights to the United States, condemning the ban as an infringement of its national sovereignty.
``The rules contradict the norms and principles of international law,'' the carrier said in the statement. ``It can also be seen as an intrusion into the economic activities of foreign companies outside the United States.''
Aeroflot said it had held talks on the issue at the U.S. State Department last week, but without a final result.
U.S. President Bill Clinton had signed the ban on April 5.
Russia's population of 145 million has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world, with some three billion packets of cigarettes sold annually.
More than 50 percent of Russian men and 25 percent of women smoke, according to the health ministry.
Aeroflot, one of the few major international airlines to maintain smoking zones, operates flights on Western aircraft to several U.S. destinations. The airline complains that most of its U.S. routes turn no profit.
Its cigarette-friendly policy has helped it attract large numbers of foreigners and more affluent Russian smokers who might otherwise choose Western carriers.
Aeroflot last year banned smoking on flights under two hours as part of an effort to bring it up to the standards of major world carriers.