Smoking ban from June 1st

Smoking ban from June 1st
10 июня - English articles

A law banning smoking in many public places has come into force in Russia, but no fines will be issued against violators in the first few weeks.

The restrictions apply to schools and universities, museums, sports facilities, hospitals and on public transport.

An even bigger challenge will come next year, when the ban is extended to cafes, restaurants and hotels.

President Vladimir Putin hopes the measures will help create a healthier workforce and reverse a population decline.

President Putin hopes to improve public health

Nearly 40% of Russians smoke, compared with 27% in the United States and 30% in France, according to the World Health Organisation.

The average Russian life expectancy is 69, against 79 in the United States and 82 in France, according to the World Bank.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said the habit kills almost 400,000 Russians every year.

The new measures have stirred debate among Russians.

Supporters hope the law will help them kick a bad habit, while opponents say it will not work and infringes on the rights of smokers.

"Our country is not ready for this law," said prominent legal expert Mikhail Barshchevsky.

"This is not a law about fighting smoking, it's a law on genocide against smokers."

He said fines that will eventually be imposed - ranging from 500 to 1500 roubles (£10 to £30) - could lead to bribe-taking by police.

Russia's consumer protection agency chief, Gennady Onishchenko, said: "It's a big step in strengthening the position of our society about the absolute evil that is smoking."

But, he added: "I think less has been done than could have been."