Russian People Favour Tougher Law to Curb Smoking

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 12 2008 5:10 PM

Most Russians favour much tougher curbs on smoking, and a substantial number want smoking in restaurants and on public transport to be banned, reveals research published ahead of print in the journal Tobacco Control.

Between 1990 and 2000, cigarette consumption increased by an estimated 81% despite a declining population.

And since 1991, the number of smokers in Russia has continued to rise steadily, with a more than doubling in the number of women smokers. Two thirds of men were already smokers before this time.

Tobacco companies took advantage of financial development aid from the West and barter trade, supplemented with smuggling, to boost imports and establish a manufacturing base in the country, investing almost $US 2 billion in the process, say the authors.

In the face of little obvious opposition, including from doctors, most of whom smoke, the authors canvassed a representative sample of 1600 people across the country for their views.

The results showed that almost four out of 10 (37%) interviewees felt that Russia was doing nothing at all to curb tobacco use, while a further 14% felt that efforts were inadequate.

Three out of four interviewees believed that tobacco companies definitely or possibly bribed politicians.

Interviewees supported price hikes. In real terms the cost of foreign brand cigarettes plummeted 40% between 2000 and 2007.

Over 70% favoured a ban on sales of tobacco from street kiosks, and less than 10% felt that designating a small area in a restaurant for non-smokers made any difference.

Almost a third suggested there should be a total smoking ban in restaurants, and 44% suggested that space should be equally divided between smokers and non-smokers.

Six out of 10 also wanted smoking to be banned on public transport.

The responses revealed poor understanding of the health effects of smoking, with most people significantly underestimating the dangers and addictive nature of tobacco.

One in three smokers mistakenly believed that light tar cigarettes were safer than regular varieties.

“A combination of ignorance and corruption has made tobacco control difficult in Russia,” say the authors.

“Most physicians smoke and many non-governmental organisations in the health arena mistakenly support the tobacco industry’s message that ‘smoking is a free choice.”