Russia combats smoking culture

Hundreds of thousands of people in Russia die each year from smoking-related illnesses. 60 percent of men and 30 percent of women smoke. Now the Russian government is taking steps to address the problem by banning all tobacco advertising.

Experts say the ban is just the first step in changing the habits of millions.  

Cigarettes in Russia are cheap and most restaurants are smoker-friendly and public places usually have a place to light-up.

Meanwhile, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, it’s estimated around half a million people die of smoking-related diseases annually.

The Russian government is beginning to take action and has decided to completely ban all tobacco advertising.

The government has approved a draft law on joining the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The ban must be implemented within five years.

Sergey Polyatykin from the ‘No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction’ Fund says “Ads in a way are information in the form of pressure, as they make it easier for a person to start smoking”.

“Banning tobacco ads is just the first step,” he says.

Many expect Russia to eventually ban smoking in all public places – a move which companies like Philip Morris have already had to adapt to in Europe and the U.S. So, the no-ad move doesn’t scare them.

Artyom Tchermis, Philip Morris’s representative says they continue to operate “very successfully” in the countries where the tobacco advertising ban has already been ratified.

Will smokers quit?

Artist Oleg Buryan is in his fifties and has smoked for the majority of his life.

Quitting has never crossed his mind. For him a pipe before bed or his coffee breaks with a hand-rolled cig are just something he couldn’t live without.

“I do feel that in Russia it was much more comfortable for smokers. I’m not sure it will work because there are so many smokers,” Buryan says.

Getting millions of smokers to quit might take more than banning ads.

Oleg thinks laws will get even stricter but hopes his smoking rights will be protected.

“Ok, make us separate but give us equal rights. In a café we pay the same price for food and we should have the same comfort,” he says.