Will the newly introduced ban on smoking in public places in Russia actually work? Should education programmes be introduced to encourage people to stop smoking? Perhaps the answer is to increase the price of cigarettes? These and other related topics the Voice of Russia's EcoPlus are discussed in this second programme on smoking in Russia with Alexander Lioutyi , Corporate Affairs Director of Russian Division at British American Tobacco and Dmitry Petropolsky, deputy head of International projects at the Yurvista law company participate in this programme.
Will this new law stop Russian smoking or not?
Alexander Lioutyi: No, it will not stop Russian smoking, because the law is too restrictive. If the authorities want to control smoking in Russia, I think this law in addition to some regulatory measures should have a consistent, sustained educational program. People need to be educated about a healthy lifestyle.
We are very often giving the examples of Western countries, say, the US or Germany. Look at tobacco regulation in the US, it is very liberal. We don’t have graphic health warnings on packs, we can advertise in the point of sale. I recently saw tobacco advertising in one of the magazines. However, they control their smoking incidents, because they have a sustained campaign of education on TV and other media. This is what is lacking in this law and in the general situation in Russia.
You don’t have 40% of Americans smoking, it is like 15%, isn’t it?
Alexander Lioutyi: Yes. But how that is achieved? Tobacco regulation is still very liberal. It was achieved more through education and information, and cessation programs.
Would increasing the price of cigarettes work?
Alexander Lioutyi: Let’s assume that I'm a smoker who smokes the cheapest brand on the market, which is 39-40 rubles. And I see that all the legal prices have gone up and I cannot afford it. There will be offerings on the market for the price that I'm used to, but these offerings will be illicit. They will come from Belarus, they will come from Kazakhstan, they will come from China and the illicit trade will grow.
It’s been done in other countries and we’ve got that experience that we can base ourselves on, whether it is Ireland, where it is 23-25% illicit, or Canada, where it is the third of the market. These price increases mostly lead to the growth of illicit trade. As to the reduction of smoking, there may be some insignificant dips, but normally smoking comes back on. It is not reduced drastically.
What about introducing educational programs?
Alexander Lioutyi: Not didactic and intrusive, it will work. I can give you an example. Nobody could believe that drivers in Russia will start being more polite on the zebra crossings. Now I go on zebra crossings and drivers and cars stop. So, it makes sense. Where it makes sense and it is done in a user-friendly, human way, programs will work.
How strict is legislation in other countries?
Dmitry Petropolsky: I’ve spent a couple of years in the UK, in London. I like the way they solved the problem of smokers. They have special places for smokers outside. For example, in the airports there are special areas where people can smoke and they have special ashtrays and even air steam machines that save non-smokers from the tobacco smoke.
The most interesting thing is in Hong Kong. My friend was there last week and the fine for smoking in the prohibited places is 5000 Hong Kong dollars, which is approximately 20 000 Russian rubles. But moreover, you will be imprisoned for two years, if you will be caught. And this law is the same for foreigners, because Hong Kong is an international port for business, and it works both for foreigners and for its citizens.
So, anybody who is smoking in these places can be fined and get a prison sentence.
Dmitry Petropolsky: Yes.
So, the onus then is not on the restaurants and business owners, because what is interesting about this new Russian law is that it is still not placing the responsibility on the individuals.
Dmitry Petropolsky: In case a smoker will be caught in the restaurant, the vendor will suffer. But if a smoker will have a cigarette in the prohibited place, he will also be fined. But the fines are much smaller.
Then, in that case, do you think the Russian legislation is too lax?
Dmitry Petropolsky: I think that every country should go in its own way in regulating smoking. I can’t say that Russia’s legislation on this matter is harsh or not, but it is a wrong way to go. And it has a long way to go, because in this country nothing immediately goes into force.
So, do you think that this law will work or not?
Dmitry Petropolsky: I think this law will work, but actually not in the next few months, it will take years. And in the end, definitely, many smokers will quit.