Russia’s Putin Tries to Curb Smoking, Tobacco Sales

MOSCOW (AP) -

Russia will ban smoking in many public places from June under a law central to President Vladimir Putin’s plans to make citizens healthier, raise life expectancy and help the economy.

Under the law, signed by Putin on Saturday and passed by parliament last week, smoking will gradually be banned at work, in the subway, restaurants, cafes, ships and long-distance trains in a nation with one of the world’s top smoking rates.

The legislation will also restrict cigarette sales and ban advertising and sponsorship of events by tobacco companies.

It was opposed by foreign firms such as British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, and Philip Morris, which control more than 90 percent of a Russian cigarette market worth about $20 billion annually.

Putin’s aim is to force a lifestyle change on millions of Russians in a country where bars and restaurants are often filled with a thick blue haze of smoke.

The law will be phased in, with smoking banned in some public places, such as subways and schools from June 1. The ban will be broadened to include restaurants and cafes a year later.

The law is part of Putin’s drive to reverse a population decline that began after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. He hopes it will increase productivity and promote economic growth.