Russia - health warnings on cigarette packs..

July 7, 2010 - Russia slapped "smoking kills" warnings on cigarette packages from Saturday, June 26th in an effort to crack down on an addiction that kills up to 500,000 people a year and is on the rise.

According to World Health Organisation statistics, 60 percent of Russian men smoke and the number of smokers, particularly among young women, has been growing since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Russsia - 73 percent of boys and 65 percent of girls smoke..)

As many as 350,000 to half a million of Russians die each year of smoking-related causes, clouding the country's already gloomy demographic. The United Nations warns that the population may shrink from to 116 million by 2050 from 142 million now.

Adopting standards similar to those in the European Union, the Ministry of Health and Social Development requires the anti-smoking message to cover no less than 30 percent of the front of a package and another warning takes half of the back.

The messages range from warnings of lung cancer through wrinkles to impotence and will also come with information on the amount of nicotine and resins.

"Introduction of the new technical regulations of tobacco production is one of the steps in the path to limit the use and spread of tobacco production in Russia," the ministry said in a statement.

But the fight against smoking is a tough one in a nicotine-addicted nation where in 1990 a shortage of domestic cigarettes led to a "tobacco rebellion" on the streets of Russia's three biggest cities, forcing then-president Mikhail Gorbachev to appeal for an international emergency shipment.

Some 409 billion cigarettes were produced in the country last year (2009), according to data from the Association of Tobacco Producers, or about 2,900 cigarettes per capita.

Russia remains one of the top tobacco clients, with the domestic market almost completely taken by three global players: Japan Tobacco Inc., Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco PLC. "The number of tobacco producers in Russia is not increasing, not even by one," the paper Komsomolskaya Pravda cited on Saturday Gennady Onishchenko, the head of Russia's consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor as saying.

Public awareness campaigns also have been increasing, with messages becoming less subtle. Billboards two years ago showing a model wearing a dress made of cigarettes have given way to pictures of a sleeping infant with a cigarette placed on its back and the message: "Smoking in child's presence is a much bigger torture for him."

But cigarettes remain affordable and available, with most priced at around 1 euro ($1.34) for 20, and unfiltered selling for much less. Some coffee chains have become smoke-free this year, but many restaurants are filled with fumes and patrons who object get the least prestigious tables.

In June, Russia's Finance Ministry said it plans to increase the excise tax from the current 250 roubles ($8.05) per 1,000 filtered cigarettes by 44 percent to 360 roubles next year, eventually more than doubling it to 590 roubles in 2013. (Russia - Finance Ministry skeptical about raising taxes on tobacco..)

But next year's increase is a fraction of what the Duma, the Lower House of Parliament, proposed in December, when it called for a quadrupling, which would double the price of cigarettes.

Russia in April 2008 became the 155th nation to ratify the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty.

Related news brief: Russian State Duma (Parliament) ratified the framework convention of the World Health Organization (WHO) on tobacco control..

Reference: Russia adopts "smoking kills" cigarette warnings by Lidia Kelly (Editing by Michael Roddy), Thomson Reuters Foundation, 6/26/2010.

Russia related news briefs:
Russsia - 73 percent of boys and 65 percent of girls smoke..;
Russia - Finance Ministry skeptical about raising taxes on tobacco..;
Russia - tax on tobacco may be quadrupled..;
Russia - tobacco epidemic with no solution in site..;
Russia - public health official discusses tobacco control..;
Russia - making it more difficult for servicemen to smoke..;
Russia - draft tobacco law being considered by Duma..;
Russia among top-10 smoking nations..;
Russian lawmakers discuss smoking ban for restaurants and bars..;
Russia passes new restrictions on tobacco..;
British American Tobacco (BAT) Misleading Russian Consumers..;
Russian State Duma (Parliament) ratified the framework convention of the World Health Organization (WHO) on tobacco control...