Russia Rolls Out Bar Smoking Ban as Cigarette Producers Protest

Russia’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants took effect yesterday as the government pressed on with a crackdown on tobacco consumption in the face of protests from cigarette makers.

The batch of anti-tobacco measures rolled out includes a prohibition on displaying cigarettes in stores. They add to a previous package signed by President Vladimir Putin that last year banned smoking in public areas, including workplaces, and set minimum prices for cigarettes.

Putin is waging a war on smoking and drinking, which kill about 900,000 people a year in Russia, the world’s second-largest tobacco market, according to official estimates. The government attributes the restrictions already in place to a 21 percent annual drop in cigarette production in the first quarter and aims to cut the share of smokers to 25 percent from 40 percent by 2020.

“We say that the anti-tobacco laws work,” Natalya Kostenko, a deputy director at the Health Ministry, said by phone from Moscow. The ban on smoking in restaurants will be “one of the most effective measures” to curb smoking, she said.

Tobacco companies argue that a 2013 increase in excise taxes has already cut into the Russian tobacco market, pushing people toward illegal suppliers. Philip Morris International Inc., British American Tobacco Plc, Japan Tobacco Inc. and Imperial Tobacco Group Plc control more than 90 percent of the Russian market.

“The Russian tobacco market has been declining over the last several years and the reason for that isn’t smoking restrictions,” Alexander Lioutyi, a spokesman for BAT Russia, said by e-mail. “It is hard to imagine how the smoking ban in cafes, restaurants, hotels and night clubs will work during the cold time of the year.”

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