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Russian smoking ban takes effect, smokers get breather before fines begin

Tough smoking laws take effect June 1, banning it from workplaces, subways and schools.

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Young girls smoke in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 29, 2013. (Oleg Nikishin/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s tough new anti-smoking laws took effect on Saturday, but smokers get a grace period before they’ll be fined for lighting up in public.

The restrictions are aimed at curbing huffing and puffing in schools, workplaces, museums, arenas, hospitals, airports and public transport, Sky News said.

Think North America, circa 1976.

Anyone caught sucking on a fag faces fines of about $15 to $50 (500 to 1,500 rubles) after the short breather expires.

“It’s a big step in strengthening the position of our society about the absolute evil that is smoking,” Gennady Onishchenko, who heads Russia’s consumer protection agency, told Sky News.

An estimated 40 percent of Russians smoke, compared to about 27 percent of Americans, the World Health Organization says.

Next year, Russia adds bars and restaurants to this list.

More from GlobalPost: Russian parliament bans public smoking

One reason for the haze hovering over Russia is cost; a pack of smokes costs about $1 there, The Associated Press said.

To help reverse the trend, which kills 400,000 people annually, the price of a pack will double and only larger shops and markets will be able to sell cigs.

Russia Today also said doctors can now test kids starting at age 10 while offering free help to anyone trying to kick the habit.

“It’s important to prevent children and teenagers from starting to smoke. They shouldn’t be able to buy cigarettes on their way from school,” Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova told RT.com.

Russian smokers are scoffing at the laws, calling them nothing more than hot air.

“It’s unfair toward the smokers. To smoke is a personal choice,” 29-year-old Yulia told AAP news service.

“It will be like the law against drinking in public, which doesn’t work.”

More from GlobalPost: Russia’s Medvedev takes tough stance on smoking

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/130601/russian-smoking-ban-takes-effect-smokers-get-breather-fin