Russia aims to stamp out smoking

Russia's prime minister has called for a ban on all tobacco adverts as the government prepares to phase out smoking in public.

Dmitry Medvedev insisted that the government's clampdown is not targeting smokers, but smoking.

The government will consider a bill this month that would ban all tobacco adverts, gradually ban smoking in all public places by 2015 and raise the price of cigarettes, a radical step for a country where 44 million adults light up. Both houses of parliament will need to pass the bill before it can become a law.

About 400,000 Russians die every year of smoke-related causes, which Mr Medvedev described as a "terrifying figure equivalent to the population of one big city."

the World Health Organisation says that 40% of Russia's adult population smokes, one of the highest rates in the world.

The number of smokers in Russia has increased over the past decades while tobacco prices were hardly regulated and smoking ads were largely unrestricted.

WHO statistics show that the rate of female smoking in Russia shoot up from just 7% in 1992 to 22% in 2009.

Mr Medvedev said the planned clampdown should benefit children and teenagers. He said that 90% of Russian smokers take up the habit before they turn 20.

"Our children get used to tobacco smoke when they're still babies and have their first cigarette in middle school, that's why we cannot talk about smoking as a free choice of an adult," the prime minister said.

Mr Medvedev said: "We can no longer tolerate tobacco companies making profits on our children and turn them into life-time tobacco consumers. It's immoral."