Don’t smoke and drive: Russian NGO seeks tougher traffic smoking rules

Reuters  / Suzanne Plunkett
​A major Russian youth organization has appealed to MPs addressed to ban smoking while driving. Activists claim that the move could radically decrease the number of traffic accidents in the country.

The Russian Youth Union NGO appealed to the head of the State Duma Transport Committee, Yevgeniy Moskvichev, with a request to add another article in the Russian Traffic Code that would ban smoking when driving.

The activists noted in their letter that current Russian rules forbid drivers to talk on mobile phones in a moving vehicle without hands-free devices under threat of heavy fines. They claimed that smoking and even simply taking a cigarette out of a pack and lighting it can be equally dangerous as it distracts the driver and tobacco smoke can obscure a driver’s view of the road.

The authors of the letter referred to official statistics that cites talking on mobile phones and smoking as two top reasons behind traffic accidents caused by drivers who lose control over their vehicles. They also quoted the state traffic police as saying that about 200,000 traffic accidents took place in Russia in 2014 and over 250,000 people were killed or injured in them.

In the summer of 2013, Russia introduced a strict anti-tobacco law that outlawed smoking first in public places and later in hotels, cafes, restaurants and on passenger trains and ships.

In May 2014, the “For the Rights of Smokers” movement, supported by the Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia, collected over 100,000 signatures in support of easing the ban in a legislative initiative. However, the bill has yet to make it past a committee in the Lower House.

READ MORE: 100,000 sign petition against smoking ban in Russia