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Russia parliament votes to ban smoking in public places

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday passed on third and final reading a bill banning smoking in public places, a major pillar of a Kremlin drive to improve health in the nicotine-addicted country.

In the State Duma lower house, 441 deputies voted for the measure with one against, Russian news agencies reported.

The Kremlin headed by President Vladimir Putin has identified smoking as a critical public health issue that causes up to 400,000 deaths annually in a country where over 40 percent of adult population are smokers.

After the State Duma's approval, the bill just needs approval from the upper chamber and a signature by President Putin and could become law by June 1.

The bill introduces strict no-smoking rules in most public areas, including schools, medical and sports facilities, beaches, passenger trains and ships, and establishes a non-smoking perimeter around entrances to train and metro stations, usually areas thick with smoke.

Smoking is also to be prohibited in restaurants, cafes and hotels.

The law also sets up new conditions for selling tobacco, banning sales in small kiosks, and establishing minimum prices per pack. Currently cigarettes cost as little as $1.30 and are sold everywhere, often to teenagers.

Tobacco companies will also have to adhere to new rules banning sponsorship of sports, culture, or education events, and hiding cigarette packs from view in stores, according to the bill.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vowed last October to halve the number of smokers in the country, lamenting that it did not stand up to Big Tobacco corporate giants in the early 1990s, becoming the world's second largest market after China.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130212/russia-parliament-votes-ban-smoking-public-places