Russia has finally caught up with the rest of the world, and smokers now have a couple of years to give up the habit, before harsh anti-smoking legislation comes into effect during 2015.
Should this legislation pass, smoking will be prohibited in any public place, including restaurants and cafes.
Many efforts have been made in the past to impose smoking bans, without success. However, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been persistent in pushing for this legislation. Addressing ministers after the discussion, he said, “This is a big problem and we are too careless about it.”
“We have to move towards civilization, like the rest of the world. And this will bring in an effect that will be measured in human lives,” he added.
Reasons for pushing the ban are clear - every third person in Russia is a smoker, and according to statistics this makes up some 44 million smokers in the country.
Russia's Minister of Health, Veronika Skvortsova, says that the health benefits from just 10% of these smokers giving up the habit would bring an additional $3,5 billion into Russia's budget in 2013.
According to health officials, around 400,000 are afflicted each year by smoking-related illnesses.
As stated in the video, it is unsure what will happen to people who ignore the smoking ban. Medvedev says that the legislation is not a governmental war on smokers, but on smoking itself.
Government officials are getting ready for what they say will be a “battle” with the powerful tobacco lobby in Russia.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Public Chamber member and former Duma deputy Maxim Mischenko said, “We will face an enormous amount of difficulties, particularly in the State Duma, and people will attempt to emasculate this bill.”
British-American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International account for around 90% of the Russian tobacco-related market, which makes this the second largest in the world behind China. According to Health Ministry statistics, Russians spent over 4 billion rubles (about $130 million) on tobacco products in 2011 alone.
The anti-tobacco ban would stop smoking in state offices, education, medical, sports and cultural facilities, in public transportation, on playgrounds and in public areas in residential buildings, making things a little hard on the tobacco addict.
Starting from July 2014, there will be no smoking allowed in hotels, markets and stores, and on long distance trains and planes.
Finally, in 2015, the ban will be brought in for restaurants and cafes.
There will also be a prohibition on advertising of tobacco products.
The draft has now been approved by the government and now goes on for approval by the Russian State Duma and then by the Federation Council.