Russia's PM Dmitry Medvedev takes on Big Tobacco


President Dmitry Medvedev (R) speaks with Japan Tobacco International President and CEO Pierre de Labouchere during an awarding ceremony in the Gorki residence outside Moscow, on June 20, 2011. Pierre de Labouchere was awarded the Order of Friendship.


Alexander Nemenov

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vowed Tuesday to take on Big Tobacco, saying a proposed law banning cigarette ads was "just the beginning." 

"We cannot let tobacco companies make money off our children's health and make them lifelong smokers any longer. That is amoral," Medvedev said in a video on his website, according to the Associated Press.

Bloomberg News reports Russia is "the world’s second-largest market for cigarette makers after China," and "39 percent of the population are regular smokers, according to the World Health Organization." 

The Wall Street Journal attempted to contact spokespersons from Japan Tobacco Inc., British American International and Philip Morris International, but the companies "didn't immediately respond."

"Unfortunately, the government didn't consider the risks of foreign tobacco investment into the Russian economy in the 1990s," Medvedev said. "Every year (the population of) a large city disappears from the map due to tobacco use. I am convinced that this bill is in the interest of the people of our country." Russia suffers 400,000 smoking-related deaths per-year.

Oleg Salagai, a health ministry official, told the Interfax news, "Russia loses an estimated 1.2 trillion rubles ($38 billion), or 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product, because of smoke-related deaths." The Wall Street Journal said the lose was about "1.5 trillion rubles ($48.36 billion) annually."

The proposed bill would increase tobacco prices, ban tobacco ads, and, as in other countries, ban smoking in public areas such as restaurants.