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12 Aug, 2010 16:46

Russians want smoking in public places banned – survey

An overwhelming majority of Russians support the idea of a ban on smoking and drinking beer in public places, a public opinion poll by the Levada Analytical Center reveals.

Chris Gilbert spends a large amount of his time in Moscow’s cafés and restaurants, talking, drinking coffee, and smoking – not just his own cigarettes but other people’s.

“One of the reasons I started smoking was that I don’t actually like the smell of other people’s smoke. And if you’re a smoker, you tend to feel it less,” Gilbert told RT.

Feeling it less is something people in this country are starting to desire. Especially when 350,000 Russian die every year due to smoking related causes.

A recent survey carried out by Levada Analytical Center has shown that 82% of Russians questioned more or less support the ban on smoking in public places, and 76% back the ban on drinking beer in public. The majority of the supporters are women and people older than 55 years of age.

According to the Levada Center’s information, during the last decade the number of smokers in Russia has remained stable – about 37% of adult respondents, and most often they were men aged from 18 to 39 years. As for beer, the number of its consumers in Russia has decreased from 55% in 2007 to 51% in 2010.

The survey was conducted in 45 regions of Russia with 1,600 people older than 18 years of age taking part.

“I think the situation with smoking in Russia is a catastrophe,” Dmitry Yanin from the Confederation of Consumers Association told RT. “Take, for example, waiters and bartenders. Their rights are harmed: they do not have a choice and are forced to spend days in rooms full of smoke. The smog that we had here in Moscow for the past several days should give people an idea of what the staff at restaurants and cafes are forced to inhale.”

Natalya Karikh, employed with Moscow’s popular Jan Jack restaurants, believes that the problem with smoking is mostly due to the Russian mentality.

“Russian people, they always do what they want to do,” Karikh told RT. “So not all of them are following the law. I think that a ban on smoking here is impossible. Maybe all restaurants would create non-smoking zones, but people will smoke in restaurants.”

Russia joined the World Health Organization’s anti-smoking convention in 2008. It requires gradual action be taken to lower tobacco use within the member state. So far, those have come in the form of large warnings on packets of cigarettes, restricting advertising, and threats of increasing excise taxes. These, however, are very small steps forward.

A draft law limiting smoking in restaurants has been under development for three years. Currently it is stuck in the Health Protection Committee in the State Duma.