Russia Declares Cold War on Big Tobacco
The country with the world's second highest smoking rate plans a major crackdown.
The size of Russia's tobacco market is second only to China's, but it could soon take a hit with the Kremlin's tough new plan to crack down on smoking. A bill with restrictions similar to those found in the West—including outlawing advertising, raising taxes and banning smoking in public spaces—will likely be submitted to parliament next month. "We are ready. This is going to be a harsh measure, but it is absolutely necessary,” says a spokesman for Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. “It will take time—maybe another generation—but we will succeed in defeating smoking and promoting a healthy lifestyle." An estimated 44 million Russians currently smoke, at a rate nearly double that in the US. The country goes through about 390 billion cigarettes a year, which results in enormous profits for the tobacco industry; so naturally, companies and lobbyists are lining up in fierce opposition to the bill. “We have expressed our opinions on certain aspects of the bill,” says a spokesperson for Japan Tobacco International, which controls 37% of the market. "I wouldn't say we are lobbying. We are just letting our position be known." Despite opposition from tobacco companies, officials expect the bill to pass, largely due to its endorsement by President Vladimir Putin. "This law would not exist without Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin],” says Sergei Kalashnikov, head of the Russian parliament’s health committee. “There is tremendous opposition to it, but it will be adopted.”