Russia unveils plan to ban public smoking by 2015
Between 350,000 and 500,000 people die in Russia each year as a result of consuming tobacco.
Moscow: Russia plans to cut its army of smokers -- up to 80 percent of its men -- with bans on advertising and smoking in public places, it revealed in a policy statement posted Monday on the government website.
"Between 350,000 and 500,000 people die in Russia each year as a result of consuming tobacco," said the hard-hitting policy statement, which was signed last month by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Up to 80 percent of men smoke in some regions, and up to 47 percent of women, the report said. Smoking rates among women and minors have tripled in the last five years.
The government plans to ban advertising and promotion of cigarettes from 2011 and to introduce a complete ban on smoking in enclosed spaces, as well as in "medical, sports and cultural institutions" by 2015.
Tobacco advertising was banned on radio and television in 1996 but is prevalent in glossy magazines -- including campaigns specifically aimed at young women -- and in the metro, airports and rail stations.
Smoking is permitted in most bars and restaurants, which also sell cigarettes.
Russia plans a "gradual increase" on taxes on tobacco to reach average European levels by 2015. It currently has some of the cheapest cigarettes in the world, at around 40 rubles (1.31 dollars) per pack.
Taxes are now only five rubles per pack, but could rise to around 50 rubles by 2015, Dmitry Yanin, one of the strategy`s authors was quoted as saying in Vedomosti business daily on Monday.
The state statistics agency said in December that more than 17 percent of deaths in 2009 were caused by smoking. Russia in 2008 ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, signed by more than 100 countries since it was adopted in 2003.
In June, Russia introduced European-style health warnings that cover at least 30 percent of cigarette packs.