Russia Passes Anti-Tobacco Bill
LONDON (Reuters Health) - A bill that puts strict controls on tobacco sales and enforces health warnings on packets of cigarettes was passed at its third and final reading Thursday by the Russian Duma or Lower House of Parliament.
The bill will now be sent to the Federation Council, the Upper House of the Russian Parliament.
The document aims to reduce the number of children and teenagers who smoke, protect nonsmokers from harmful effects of passive smoking and introduce limits on the nicotine content of cigarettes.
It bans the production and sale in Russia of filtered cigarettes with a nicotine content of more than 1.2 milligrams (mg), and tar higher than 14 mg from January 1, 2003. It also proposes strengthening of licensing rules for production, distribution and wholesale of cigarettes.
Stronger warnings about hazards of smoking will also need to be printed on packs of cigarettes, naming conditions caused by smoking, such as cancer, heart disease and impotence.
The bill bans selling packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes and sales to children under 18 years old. It also strongly limits the variety of places where tobacco and cigarettes can be purchased, and introduces certain limits to tobacco advertising and showing smokers on TV and in cinema.
The bill bans smoking in workplaces, on airplanes and trains, in sport halls, medical institutions and hospitals, schools and other educational institutions, and other public places.
The document was developed and proposed by the Duma Committee on protection of public health and sport. According to Nikolai Gerasimenko, the committee's chairman, the main reason the law was proposed was to improve public health and reduce the mortality rate in Russia.
``Smoking has become an epidemic that can lead to...depopulation in Russia,'' said Professor David Zaridze, director of the Institute of Carcinogenesis of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, at a news conference in May. He expressed hope that the antismoking law would at least partially improve the ``simply catastrophic'' current situation.
According to the Russian Ministry of Health, up to 80% of Russian adults are smokers compared with an average of 40% in Europe. About one in four Russian boys start smoking before age 10.