Russia will ban smoking in public places, hike tobacco taxes and restrict the sale of cigarettes from mid-2014 in an effort to cut the alarmingly high rate of deaths from smoking-related diseases.

A law approved by the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, on Friday in the second of three readings calls for an immediate ban on all tobacco advertising and kiosk sales and the phasing out of smoking in all bars and restaurants, in medical, sports, educations and cultural institutions by January 1, 2015.

It will be against the law to smoke at children’s playgrounds, in the halls and stairways of apartment houses and at public transport stops. Violators will be fined from $50 to $100.

The Health Ministry wants the excise tax on cigarettes to keep growing at the current rate of 20 to 30 per cent a year till it reaches the minimum European Union rate of $1.7 per a pack of cigarettes, that is increases 3.7 times.

Cigarette producers warn that a steep rise in the price of tobacco will lead to massive smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes from neighbouring China, which accounts for 80 per cent of all global trade in illicit cigarettes.

According to the World Health Organisation, 39 per cent of Russians smoke, which makes Russia one of the heaviest smoking nations. About 400,000 Russians, or 0.3 percent of the population die every year from diseases caused by smoking.

The smoking rate in Russia sharply rose after the fall of the Soviet Union, when international tobacco giants were allowed to capture the Russian market of cigarettes. Today Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group control more than 90 per cent of the $19 billion Russian tobacco market.

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