June 1 - A ban on smoking in restaurants and bars goes into effect in Russia, one of the heaviest smoking countries in the world with 44 million smokers, and despite opposition. Vanessa Johnston reports.
No more smoking in bars and restaurants in Russia, as a new ban goes into effect Sunday. As of June 1, smoking is also prohibited in hotels and on trains, and cigarettes can't be displayed in shops or sold in kiosks. This Moscow resident and non-smoker supports the ban for health reasons. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) MOSCOW RESIDENT INNA, SAYING: "I think smokers should also have some rights, but they shouldn't interfere with my life, the life of a person who never smoked, and no one in my family smoked." But for Russia's hardened smokers, the ban is nothing short of discrimination. This Moscow resident and smoker was asked if he supports the ban. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) MOSCOW RESIDENT AND SMOKER, VLADIMIR, ASKED WHETHER HE SUPPORTS THE LAW, SAYING: "Not really, then there should be special smoking places everywhere so people would also be able to smoke." Thirty-nine percent of Russia's adult population smokes, one of the highest rates in the world. Bar and restaurant owners are worried about how the ban will affect business. Eighty-two percent of Russian restauranteurs expect sales to drop as of Sunday, according to one recent poll. Olga works at a restaurant in Moscow. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) MOSCOW RESTAURANT WORKER, OLGA, SAYING: "We had two smoking areas, one on a porch and one smoking room. Yes, I can say there are fewer guests now, but now we have non-smokers with more children." Russia began introducing tougher controls on smoking last summer, banning smoking in government buildings and advertising by tobacco companies. President Vladimir Putin's government hopes to cut the rate of adult smokers to 25 percent by 2020.