In a country of heavy smokers, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is throwing his support behind a proposed anti-smoking bill that would ban puffing in public by 2015.
“Our children should not breathe in cigarette smoke and see smoking on their playgrounds, in schools, universities, clinics and in cafes as something normal, routine," Medvedev said according to the New York Times.
The government is said to be considering a bill drafted by the Health Ministry that will include a ban on smoking in public places, reports the Moscow Times.
Russia currently has the second highest number of cigarette smokers in the world after China. Medvedev told the Moscow Times that smoking has increased dramatically since the early 1990s and that 44 million Russians are now smokers. That accounts for nearly one third of the population.
In addition to banning public smoking, Medvedev also proposed banning advertising for cigarettes and increasing the sales tax on them to a “substantial level.”
Smoking remains a cheap hobby in Russia. A pack of cigarettes typically costs less than $2.
"We cannot let tobacco companies make money off our children's health and make them lifelong smokers any longer. That is amoral," Medvedev said in a video blog posted on his website.
"Every year (the population of) a large city disappears from the map due to tobacco use," he said. "I am convinced that this bill is in the interest of the people of our country," he said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly 400,000 Russians die each year due to smoking, costing the country $48.36 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity.
The measure is expected to be voted on early next year.