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Russia smoke ban part of bid to lengthen life

26th February 2013

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has signed into law a bill outlawing smoking in public places by next year.

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The move comes after Putin pledged to prolong the lives of Russians, aiming for a rise in life expectancy to 74 years by 2018.

Currently, Russian life expectancy stands at just 66.5 years, compared with 79.8 years in the EU. A Russian man has a life expectancy of 60.1 years, while women fare slightly better at 73.2 years.
Currently, deaths are outpacing births in Russia, where 60% of men are smokers. Most people get through an average of four gallons of spirit annually, and one in two people are overweight.
Earlier this year, a law went into effect to limit the sale of beer on street-corner kiosks. Previously, beer was regarded as a foodstuff, rather than an alcoholic beverage.
According to Dmitri Yanin, chairman of the Conference of Consumer Protection Societies, Russia still has a long way to go in a country where cigarettes are less than a tenth of the price charged in many other countries.
Consumer behaviour may be slow to change, and the new laws needs to include economic measures to boost public health, Yanin believes.
Russia had a population of 148 million at the collapse of the former Soviet Union, compared with 143 million today.
The state-run healthcare system fell apart along with the regime, sparking skyrocketing rates of non-communicable diseases like lung cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Putin has already identified the demographic problem as the most acute faced by Russians, with a possible further decline in population to 107 million by the middle of the century if something is not done to halt current trends.
Women who give birth have been given state subsidies since 2006, but the country still recorded 2,500 more deaths than births last year, and infant mortality rose for the first time in 12 years last year to 8.7 deaths per 1,000 births, compared with 7.1 per 1,000 in 2011.
Luigi Migliorini, who is the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s special representative to Russia, men are dying during their working years, when they could still hold down jobs or raise their families.
He said the measures to curb tobacco and alcohol consumption were crucial to prevent this from continuing.
An estimated 400,000 people die in Russia every year from diseases linked to smoking, while around 300,000 die from alcohol-related causes.
Americans, with their population of 314 million, buy around 16 billion packets of cigarettes every year, compared with 20 billion packs bought by Russians. Popular brands cost just US$1 per pack of 20, according to a WHO report.
Intense industry lobbying has already stymied attempts to set a minimum price for cigarettes.
Meanwhile, many Russian men seem determined not to wear seatbelts while in motor vehicles, a factor which may contribute as much as alcohol to the high rate of road accidents.
Non-government groups have called for better training, higher pay and new equipment in the country's healthcare system, along with public education to help people understand the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

However, pro-smoking groups say the government should leave them to make unhealthy choices if they want to.

 

 

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