[JURIST] Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev [official website] on Tuesday proposed legislation [materials, in Russian] that would ban tobacco advertisements and public smoking and raise taxes on tobacco products. On his video blog [media website, in Russian] Medvedev acknowledged that 44 million Russians—a third of the entire population—are nicotine dependent, making Russia the second largest tobacco market behind only China. The bill as proposed would ban smoking in public places, putting in place a stage-by-stage process with the goal of eliminating smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes by January 1, 2015. Health Minster Veronika Skvortsova [official profile] has campaigned for significant increases [Itar-Tass report] on cigarette excise duties by 2015. If passed, the new tax would increase duties from 360 rubles (USD $11.65) per 5000 packs to 4000 rubles (USD $129.42). The Health Ministry expects that increased excise duties would decrease consumption by 10 percent and bring in approximately one trillion rubles in additional revenues. The bill is expected to be submitted to the State Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of parliament, in the coming days, with the expectation that the bill will become law by next spring. The Russian cigarette industry is valued at over $22 billion dollars by Euromonitor International [advocacy website], with 90 percent of the market dominated by Japanese, British and American tobacco companies.
The proposed legislation follows the trend mostly in Western nations that have imposed strict controls on tobacco sales, advertisements and bans on public smoking. Earlier this month the High Court of Australia [official website] published its reasons for dismissing a lawsuit [JURIST reports] brought by several large tobacco companies challenging new labeling requirements [TPP Act] that require cigarette packages to display graphic images warning of the dangers of smoking and ban brand logos. Similar issues have arisen in the US. In August the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that tobacco companies do not need to print graphic warnings of the danger of smoking, but in March the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] ruled that graphic cigarette label warnings are constitutional [JURIST report]. The court decided unanimously that the portions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [HR 1256 text], signed [JURIST report] by President Barack Obama in 2009 and designed to limit the tobacco industry’s ability to advertise to children, are a valid restriction on commercial free speech.