Tobacco Asia

Volume 18, Number 4

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Page 35 of 83

36 tobaccoasia By Andrey Medvedev It's an interesting time we live in. For the past year, Russia has been in the news nearly every day... but for all the wrong reasons. It all started with an ill-conceived "anti-gay propaganda" law, gradually moved into the crisis in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, and what occupies the headlines today, are the western sanctions against Russia and Putin's retaliatory sanctions against Western agricultural products. Still, no matter where the political winds blow, millions of people across the world keep on puffing, and the Russian Federation is certainly no exception. From Russia with Smoke After China, Russia is the world's second-largest tobacco market by volume. It is also the third-larg- est cigarette producer globally, after China and the US, in spite of the fact that much of its high quality tobacco is imported from other countries. Until re- cently Russia had been a hugely attractive market, with the the "big four" – PMI, JT, British Ameri- can Tobacco (BAT), and Imperial Tobacco Group – accounting for some 95% of tobacco production in this nation of 144 million people. As a result their brands also dominate the market, although distribution in Russia remains a largely domestic business. As was often the case in other countries, trou- ble started brewing when Russia ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on June 3, 2008. The country implemented regulations requiring health warnings on 30% of the front and 50% of the back of the pack in June 2010. As of May 2013, the health warnings on the back of the pack are also required to include graphic pictures. Regulations still allow descriptive words such as "light" and "low-tar", as long as the mandatory health warning on such products also mentions that these descriptors do not mean that they are less harmful to health. The first stage of Russia's anti-tobacco law came into force on June 1, 2013. It instituted a ban on smoking in some public places, including government buildings, healthcare and educational facilities, cultural sites, sports stadiums, and on public transport. Still, the first stage was rela- tively mild in comparison to what was to come. "The big one" hit exactly a year later, on June 1, 2014. The second stage of the law banned all forms of tobacco advertising and smoking in restaurants, cafés, public eateries, hostels, hotels, pubs, night- clubs, railway platforms, and airports, as well as on trains and vessels. The only exception to the other- wise comprehensive ban was long-distance passen- ger ships. It also demanded that cigarettes be hidden from customers at any points of sale in stores and supermarkets. It further strictly prohibited display- ing people smoking onscreen and on stage. Russian smokers find themselves increasingly left "out in the cold"

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