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Putin signs anti-tobacco law restricting smoking, sales

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By Bloomberg News
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a package of anti-tobacco measures aimed at curbing demand in the world's second-largest cigarette market, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Effective June 1, the law bans smoking in public areas including workplaces, stairwells of apartment buildings and near schools and hospitals. It sets minimum prices for cigarettes and allows for higher excise taxes.

The ban on public smoking will be extended to restaurants, hotels and train stations starting on June 1, 2014, and sales will be banned in street kiosks not big enough for clients to enter.

Putin, who returned to the Kremlin last year for a third term as president, is limiting sales and advertising of alcohol and tobacco in the biggest public health initiative since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's failed campaign in the late 1980s.

Smoking and drinking kill about 900,000 people a year in Russia, according to official estimates.

“There are some concerns that the tobacco lobby will be able to win concessions to make the process less transparent and more drawn out,” said Julia Tsepliaeva, head of research at BNP Paribas in Moscow. “On excise taxes, in particular, they'll look to reach an agreement.”

Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group control 93 percent of the $19.5 billion Russian market. China is the world's biggest tobacco consumer.

Tobacco companies have won some compromises. The government originally proposed outlawing all tobacco advertising and sponsorship as well as kiosk sales immediately, with bans on trade in small retail outlets and smoking in public places taking effect Jan. 1, 2015.

The compromise was reached after a “multimillion-dollar campaign” by the tobacco lobby, Dmitry Nosov, an Olympic judo bronze medalist who serves as a deputy in the State Duma, said in an interview last month.

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