Effects of New Anti-Smoking Restrictions Met With Skepticism
Published: June 11, 2013 (Issue # 1763)
The new anti-smoking law that came into force last week, intended by the government as a measure to fight population decline, has been met more with skepticism than strict implementation.
The measures that took effect on June 1 are the first phase in a large-scale program designed to change the public’s attitude toward smoking by imposing strict restrictions in public places and significantly increasing prices on tobacco products.
Many of the restrictions introduced pertain to smoking in places where it has already been prohibited, such as on public transportation and in schools, museums and hospitals.
Now on the list are universities, sports facilities, stairwells of apartment buildings, municipal and office buildings, playgrounds, beaches, filling stations and any area within 15 meters of a metro entrance, as well as bus stops, train stations and airports.
The law, developed by the Health Ministry and signed in February by President Vladimir Putin, was designed to put a dent in the death rate caused by smoking and help boost a dwindling population.
“It’s a big step in strengthening the position of our society on the absolute evil that is smoking,” Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennady Onishchenko said last week.
All tobacco advertising in the media and on the Internet is prohibited by the first stage of the law, which also bans tobacco companies from sponsoring public events and festivals.
But the stricter measures are expected to come into effect next June, when a Western-style ban on smoking will be introduced in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, markets, long-distance trains and on railway station platforms.
Open displays of cigarettes in shops will also be forbidden, as well as sales of cigarettes from any retail outlet that is smaller than 50 square meters, making tobacco sales in kiosks illegal.
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center and published last Monday, 46 percent of Russians are well aware of the new restrictions.
But 32 percent said they did not believe smokers would comply with the law, and 54 percent expressed doubts that police would fully control its implementation, while 23 percent said the law would not be enforced at all.
Although the law is already in effect, fines for its violation have yet to be officially approved by the State Duma.
Sitting by at St. Petersburg metro entrance and lighting a cigarette, Igor, 36, said he was sure the new law wouldn’t affect him.
A man sitting beside him, 39-year-old Andrei, called the law “more nonsense produced by the Duma deputies.”
“I don’t care about this new law. My brother is an army officer, he will defend me in case of any trouble.”
Women, by contrast, seemed to be more law-abiding, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Moscow resident 25-year-old manager Natalya said she hoped the law would help her to quit, while 56-year-old Irina in St. Petersburg said she felt positively about the measure and that it would “certainly affect people’s attitudes, albeit slowly.”