Cigarette prices are rising but smokers are fighting backby Anna Blundy / March 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
There you are at the bus stop in Moscow, shuffling your feet in the freezing slush and thinking of having a quick cigarette to pass the time. Surprisingly, since we tend to think of Russians as having a shot of vodka in one hand and a cigarette in the other, acting on that thought is going to prove quite difficult.
In Russia, you are now only allowed to smoke in designated outdoor areas and cigarettes are no longer sold at news kiosks. They are neither advertised nor publicly displayed in the diminishing number of places that still stock them and the warnings on the packets are big and stark. A packet of Marlboro Reds now costs 110 roubles (£1.10)—a small sum by western standards, but it represents a price rise for foreign cigarettes of 20 per cent in the last year.
So, you wonder whether you should contribute to Russia’s smoking cessation figures (which, if believed, show that the number of Russians who smoke is down 17 per cent over the past year, though a whopping 43 per cent of the population still smokes) when suddenly the decision is made for you. You glance at the bus stop billboard and there is a lurid anti-smoking advert from the Russian Ministry of Health (a recent Moscow poster of President Barack Obama, with the slogan that smoking kills more people than he does, appears to have been a prank). Resolved at last to ditch the filthy American habit and stride forward as a healthy, chest-bearing, horse-riding citizen of Vladimir Putin’s glorious Russia, you board the bus.
At least, that’s the idea.
Senator Sergei Kalashnikov, formerly of the Duma Health Committee, insists, in a voice that suggests he may have smoked the odd cigarette himself over the years: “The anti-smoking propaganda is working. Russians are beginning to understand that smoking is not civilised.” He may have a point. Polls show there is 90 per cent compliance and 80 per cent approval of the new laws, which were implemented in 2013/14 and strictly adhere to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
This in a country that has been smoking enthusiastically since the 16th century. As the story goes,…