Russia - draft tobacco law being considered by Duma..

May 1, 2009 - In April 2008 Russia's lower chamber of parliament, the Duma (in the Russian Empire and Russian Federation corresponds to the lower house of the parliament), ratified the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. By ratifying the WHO's anti-tobacco pact, Russia will have to ban all tobacco advertising within five years. The pact also encourages enforcing bans on sales to minors, raising taxes on cigarettes, and widening bans on smoking in public places. The Duma decided to draft a new law as a follow-up to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The law would become effective a year after its official publication. It contains transitional provisions regulating a gradual introduction of stricter requirements to the amount of hazardous substances in tobacco products and the size of health warnings on them.

An estimated 60 percent of Russian men and 30 percent of women smoke. Russia ranks fourth in the world in per capita tobacco consumption, behind Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. One-third of Russia's population smokes. Every year 2.2 million people die in Russia including about 400,000 from smoking-related diseases.

The State Duma Committee on Health plans to submit a draft law limiting tobacco consumption in Russia to the Duma before the end of this year. The committee will also propose amendments to the Tax Code this autumn in a bid to raise cigarette excises, committee deputy chairman Nikolai Gerasimenko said. "We have already presented the document at the parliamentary hearings. It was drafted together with the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor)," he said.

The document bans the sale of cigarettes except in stores, bans smoking in public places, and bans tobacco advertising. "Total aggressive advertising prevents young people from making the right choice in favour of healthy life," State Duma deputy Sergei Markov said.

"It is necessary to raise cigarette excises gradually and constantly," he said. He believes these measures will help reduce tobacco consumption in Russia and prevent young people from taking to smoking for lack of money. Cigarettes are cheap in Russia—20 cents a pack for USSR brand cigarettes—and can be bought by minors at kiosks and from rows of street vendors lining the entrances to subway stations. At present cigarettes are sold at giveaway prices, even lower than the price for a loaf of bread or a liter of milk.

Lawmakers suggest increasing the tax to 70 percent of the retail price and more.
Specialists say that "if the tax is raised above inflation, all cigarette brands will become less affordable. The smokers using cheap cigarettes will have a smaller selection of replacements for their brands, which should encourage them to stop smoking." If the tax is raised from the current rate of 33 percent to 70 percent of the retail price, tax revenues will increase by 125 billion roubles a year and the number of smokers would decrease by 5.4 million, specialists say.

Earlier, the State Duma decided against passing amendments to the law that limits tobacco smoking in the country. Gerasimenko said the decision had not been lobbied by tobacco companies. It's a legal norm: if an existing law is altered by more than a quarter, it is better to write a new one, he explained.

Gerasimenko said the Duma would amend the federal law "On Tobacco Smoking" in order to increase health warnings on cigarette packs to 50 percent of their display area and introduce a total ban on tobacco advertising.

"The right to decide which bar or restaurant should allow smoking will be given to municipalities," he said.

The technical regulation for tobacco products adopted by the Duma in December brings the federal law "On the Limitation of Tobacco Smoking" in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of 2003 in terms of preventing the spread of smoking.
This regulation calls for a gradual reduction of hazardous substances in tobacco products: for filter cigarettes: 10 milligrams of tar, 1 milligram of nicotine (current levels are 14 and 1.2 milligrams); and for non-filter cigarettes: 13 milligrams of tar and 1.1 milligrams of nicotine (current levels are 16 and 1.3 milligrams). These requirements will apply three years after the enactment of the law. Earlier, a five-year transitional period was planned, but it was reduced on the initiative of the pro-presidential United Russia party.

The document also says that every pack of cigarettes will have to bear the main health waning in a black frame, reading "Smoking kills". In addition, additional health warnings may be placed on a pack, such as "Smoking causes infarctions and insults", "Protect children from tobacco smoke" or "Consult your doctor in order to quit smoking". The health warning should be made in "bold, clear and easily readable uppercase letters of the biggest possible size in black on white". The main health warning may not be less than 30 percent of the principal display area, and an additional health warning, not less than 50 percent.

Reference: Duma To Consider Draft Law On Tobacco This Year"> Duma To Consider Draft Law On Tobacco This Year, Alinga Consulting Group, 4/30/2009.

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