Russia to adopt mandatory warning labels on cigarettes

Russian tobacco producers will introduce warning messages on cigarette packs on Saturday to enhance public awareness of smoking-risia smokersrelated mortality threats.

Russia has the most smokers per capita and is the largest tobacco producer after China, India and the U.S., according to government data. Tobacco companies with operations in Russia include Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company, British American Tobacco Plc, Europe’s largest cigarette maker, Japan Tobacco Inc. and Imperial Tobacco Group Plc.

Under the new regulations, which are part of a Russian anti-smoking campaign, tobacco companies are obliged to print messages informing people of the harmful effects of smoking.

The main warning message “Smoking kills” must be printed in a black frame covering no less than 30% of the front and an additional message should cover no less than 50% of the back.

There will be 12 additional cautionary statements such as “Smoking causes lung cancer,” “Smoking causes heart attacks and strokes,” “Smoking can lead to male impotency,” “Keep children away from tobacco smoke.”

The tobacco companies will be allowed to change the messages once a year and “decorate” them with pictures and pictographs. In the future, mandatory ominous pictures and photos of smokers’ lungs will be introduced to emphasize the death threat.

The new regulation also requires cigarette producers to show the amount of nicotine and resins on the package. Since June 22, the amount of carbon monoxide in smoke from a filtered cigarette must not exceed 10 milligrams.

GUILTY WEST?

Some 409 billion cigarettes were produced in the country last year, according to data from the Association of Tobacco Producers, or about 2,900 cigarettes per capita.

Russia remains one of the top tobacco clients, with the domestic market almost completely taken by three global players: Japan Tobacco Inc., Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco PLC.

“The number of tobacco producers in Russia is not increasing, not even by one,” the paper Komsomolskaya Pravda cited on Saturday Gennady Onishchenko, the head of Russia’s consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, as saying.

AWARENESS RISING, BUT SLOWLY

Russia joined the World Health Organisation’s anti-smoking convention in 2008, which requires gradual implementation of measures such as bans on smoking in public places and tobacco advertising.

Public awareness campaigns also have been increasing, with messages becoming less subtle.

Billboards two years ago showing a model wearing a dress made of cigarettes have given way to pictures of a sleeping infant with a cigarette placed on its back and the message: “Smoking in child’s presence is a much bigger torture for him.”

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned smoking — and alcoholism — calling it a big tragedy of the nation.

But cigarettes remain affordable and available, with most priced at around 1 euro ($1.34) for 20, and unfiltered selling for much less.

Some coffee chains have become smoke-free this year, but many restaurants are filled with fumes and patrons who object get the least prestigious tables.

In June, Russia’s Finance Ministry said it plans to increase the excise tax from the current 250 roubles ($8.05) per 1,000 filtered cigarettes by 44 percent to 360 roubles next year, eventually more than doubling it to 590 roubles in 2013.

But next year’s increase is a fraction of what the Duma, the Lower House of Parliament, proposed in December, when it called for a quadrupling, which would double the price of cigarettes.

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