Russia's tobacco experiment

Monday, January 23, 2017

There is currently a proposal in Russia, backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to prohibit the sale of cigarettes in Russia to anyone born after 2015.

We suspect an outright ban of cigarettes would fail in Russia for the same reason it would fail in the United States, which is the same reason prohibition of alcohol failed in the United States.

A black market would be created to serve peopleé─˘s addiction and undermine respect for the law.

The ban on smoking in most public areas in the U.S. is a valid health measure and about as far as the government should go in prohibiting tobacco use among adults. Anti-tobacco lobbying organizations praise every proposed increase in tobacco tax, but avoid advocating an outright ban because of the nationé─˘s painful lesson regarding alcohol prohibition. However, there has to be a point at which taxation becomes prohibition.

Reduction in sales of cigarettes to youth during the 21st century has been dramatic in both the U.S. and Russia, which is likely more a result of education than of prosecution. Still, we will watch with interest any attempts in Russia to totally end the use of tobacco.

The question remains of why are they picking the year 2015 as the cutoff date for being allowed to smoke in the future. Certainly three-year-old Russians are not already too addicted to tobacco so as to make efforts to ban them from smoking futile.