MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning smoking in public places in Russia from June, a cornerstone of the government's bid to improve public health in the nicotine-addicted country, the Kremlin said on Monday.
The law makes smoking illegal in restaurants, cafes, hotels, trains and a host of other places and will take effect in two stages.
From June 1, it will be illegal to smoke in Russia on municipal transport, at railway stations, in lifts and bus stations, administrative buildings as well as any place of education or health.
From June 2014, the ban will be stepped up to include ships, long distance trains, train platforms, hotels, cafes and restaurants in what will mean a major lifestyle change for many Russians.
The law will also ban the advertising of tobacco products as well as sponsorship of events by tabacco firms.
Over 40 per cent of the adult population in Russia are believed to be smokers and the authorities admit that their failure to take firm action on the issue has turned smoking into a major public health problem.
The health industry estimates that lower life expectancy caused by smoking costs the budget an estimated 1.2 trillion rubles (S$49.5 billion), or 6.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
Neither Mr Putin nor Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are smokers. However Mr Medvedev is surrounded by several chain-smoking ministers in the cabinet such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The law, called "On protecting the health of citizens from the danger of passive smoking and the consequences of the use of tabacco", was adopted by the State Duma lower house on Feb 12 and the Federation Council upper house on Feb 20.