Russian Proposal Would Phase In Cigarette Ban, but Current Smokers Get a Pass

12 January 2017:

Russia’s millennials may be the country’s last generation of cigarette smokers. If a proposal introduced by the Health Ministry is adopted, Russia will ban the sale of cigarettes to people born in 2015 and after.

Tobacco kills about six million people globally each year, according to the World Health Organization, and 300,000 to 400,000 of them are Russians.

About 33 percent of Russian adults use tobacco products.

President Vladimir V. Putin, a nonsmoker, has stepped up efforts to curb smoking in recent years. In 2013, he signed a law that banned smoking in most public places, raised taxes on tobacco products and banned the sale of them at street kiosks.

The efforts have had an impact. The number of children aged 13 to 15 who smoke declined to 9.3 percent in 2015 from 25.4 percent in 2004, according to the Health Ministry.

Under the new proposal, employees who smoke will have to work longer hours to compensate for smoking breaks, and taxes will be increased on both tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Marina Gambaryan, a senior researcher at the state-run National Research Center for Preventive Medicine, told the TASS news agency that by 2033 the ban on tobacco sales “will not be seen as an emergency measure, but as a logical step.”

Other countries have had mixed success in persuading their citizens to kick the habit.

Ireland in 2004 became the first country to confront the effects of secondhand smoke and ban smoking in workplaces. Tobacco manufacturers and some political leaders thought it would be unenforceable. Within a month, according to Ireland’s Health Ministry, there was near total compliance, including thousands of pubs, and the law gained wide acceptance. Ireland’s ban prompted dozens of other countries to adopt similar laws.


Patrons of O’Donoghues pub in Dublin puffed away on March 28, 2004, before a ban on smoking in all workplaces went into effect. 

CreditJohn Cogill/Associated Press

Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom that evaluates its public policies not by the potential economic benefits but by how much they add to the country’s “gross national happiness,” tried to become the world’s first smoke-free nation by banning the sale of tobacco in 2005. The immediate result: a fair amount of grumpiness and an increase in the smuggling of tobacco from India.

Under the country’s Tobacco Control Act of 2010, Bhutanese adults are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes a month into the country. Smokers who violate the customs law or retailers caught selling tobacco can face up to five years in prison.


Cigarettes sold in Australia are packaged with nightmarish images of the health hazards of tobacco.CreditRyan Pierse/Getty Images

Since 2011, Australia has been trying to scare people away from smoking by covering cigarette packages with nightmarish images of the health hazards. Linking gangrenous feet, blackened lungs and a tongue misshapen with tumors to smoking appears to have worked. Several other countries, including France, New Zealand and South Africa, plan to adopt similar packaging laws.


A smoking spot outside the Shimbashi train station in Tokyo. Japan has stepped up its antismoking efforts as it gets read to host the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. CreditChris McGrath/Getty Images

Japan, long a smokers’ stronghold, has been moving slowly to adopt smoking curbs. Since 2002, Tokyo has taken the lead in creating designated outdoor smoking areas, but the World Health Organization rates Japan’s antismoking efforts among the weakest in the world. In August, the country’s Health Ministry proposed a ban on smoking in public buildings. The move comes as Japan gets ready to host the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. On Thursday, restaurant industry groups voiced their opposition to the move.

In the United States, California and New York City have some of the strictest antismoking laws. California has banned smoking in bars, casinos and nightclubs since 1998. New York City followed suit in 2003.

Late last year the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would ban smoking in all public housing nationwide.