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Reducing Smoking in Russia

Hundreds of thousands of Russians die every year from diseases linked to smoking. The country has one of the highest smoking rates in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 40 percent of adults in Russia smoke. That is about 44 million people. The WHO says China leads the world in tobacco smoking rates. It says Russia is second.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently made an effort to reduce the number of smokers in his country. He proposed a ban on smoking in public places by 2015, and a ban on all tobacco advertising. And he proposed to increase the country's very low cigarette taxes.

In Russia, a pack of cigarettes can cost between one and two dollars. Mr. Medvedev appeared in an Internet video about the issue. He said Russians must stop smoking. He said about 90 percent of Russian smokers begin smoking before they reach the age of 20. He said smoking kills about 400,000 people in Russia each year. He compared the loss of life to a large city disappearing from the country's map.

The Prime Minister also warned about the way smoking kills. He described long and painful deaths from cancer or emphysema, as well as sudden deaths from heart attack and stroke.Still, smoking continues to grow in some groups. The number of Russian women who smoke has increased sharply in the past 20 years.

In 1992, about seven percent of Russian women smoked. Twenty-two percent do now. Yet, approval from the upper and lower houses of parliament may not limit Russian smoking. Many experts say the government does not have enforcement power to put the law into effect.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 14Nov2012)