Russian PM Declares War on Smoking

MOSCOW - The Russian government has supported a bill that would immediately ban smoking in playgrounds, schools, and universities, and prohibit smoking in restaurants and cafes by 2015. It would also restrict how and where cigarettes can be sold and marketed, as well as raise import duties on tobacco products.

The bill is expected to be considered in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, by November 1, RIA Novosti reports.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared "war" on smoking Tuesday, saying the habit must be stamped out in a country that has become the world's second largest market for tobacco, after China.

It won't be easy.

Forty percent of Russians, about 44 million people, smoke, including 60 percent of men. About half of Russian smokers puff a pack or more a day. Cigarettes are cheap, about a dollar a pack, and available almost everywhere.

Given the size of the Russian market, the tobacco industry is not giving up without a fight.

The Wall Street Journal reports the industry has launched a coordinated lobbying campaign to block the ban. The paper quotes lawmakers saying they are under immense pressure from the companies.

The government, however, points to alarming health statistics. Each year around 400,000 Russians die from smoking-related illnesses, according to Medvedev, and a third of the country is addicted to nicotine.

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