Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russian smokers enjoy last day of tobacco freedom


Russian smokers enjoy the last few hours of their tobacco freedom. From June 1st, 2013, their position in Russia will considerably worsen as the new "anti-smoking law" (signed by the President on February 25) is coming into effect. Restrictions will be introduced gradually: the Russians will be given time to get used to them.

According to the new law, from June 1, smokers will not be allowed to smoke in public places, schools, universities, in buildings of state authorities, regional public transport, railway stations, airports, elevators and stairwells, playgrounds and bus stops. Smoking at a distance of 15 meters from the entrance to subway stations will be forbidden as well. Tobacco companies will no longer be able to advertise their products, demonstration of smoking in films, TV shows and plays will be banned too.

For the time being, offenders of the new law will not be fined for breaking the new rules. The mechanism of fines has not been developed yet.  Russian officials realize that it will be impossible to root public smoking out in an instant.

The chief of the public council under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Kucherena, urged police officers to treat smokers kindly. "Certainly, we observe the rights of the part of the population that got accustomed to smoking. We understand that they will not be able to give up their habit quickly," he said. 

As for public catering, smoking in cafes, restaurants and clubs will be allowed for another year, before June 1, 2014. However, the country's chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko is determined to create most uncomfortable conditions for smoking.

"There should not be smoking rooms in any type of buildings. If anyone wants to smoke, they can go out into the sunlight, in the rain or into the cold. Since smokers are weak-willed people, these rules will help them. They are too lazy to go out when it's chilly outside," Interfax quoted Onishchenko as saying.

He pointed out the progressive nature of the "anti-smoking law," but added that the restrictions provided therein were not strict enough. "Of course, this is a huge step in the legislative design of the positions of our society against smoking, this absolute evil. But you will not live to see tears of emotion rolling down my sunken cheeks, because I think that we have done a lot less than we could," the chief medical officer of the Russian Federation said.

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. In the UK, the law against tobacco was enacted in 2006. Smoking in public places in the United Kingdom may entail a fine from 30 to 200 pounds (45-300 euros).

In Belgium, a total ban on smoking in cafes was introduced in 2011. In Germany, smoking is possible only in specially equipped rooms; an offender may be fined up to one thousand euros. The first country in the world that banned smoking in all public places was the Republic of Ireland (2004). Interestingly, in Singapore, smoking is prohibited not only in various public places, but also in queues.