02 Feb 2011
February 1, 2011
Dmitry A. Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Ilinka Str, No 23
Moscow, 103132, Russia
Dear President Medvedev:
Greetings from the Framework Convention Alliance, a global coalition of nearly 360 non governmental organizations from over 100 countries working to strengthen the development, ratification and implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first modern-day international public health treaty developed under the auspicious of the World Health Organization. We are committed to the reduction of tobacco use and addiction throughout the world, aiming to protect individuals, families, and societies facing the devastating harms of tobacco consumption and exposure to secondhand smoke.
We are writing to congratulate the Russian Federation and express our support of your commendable advances in 2010 towards protecting the health and welfare of its people from the deadly toll of tobacco. The National Concept on Tobacco Control, introduced by Health Minister Golikova and signed by Prime Minister Putin in September, is a strong policy strategy to reduce the deadly consequences of tobacco use in accordance with the FCTC, that Russia ratified in 2008.
The National Concept has the potential to lead to one of the most comprehensive and innovative public health laws in the world. If a comprehensive legislation that meets or exceeds FCTC regulations passes in 2011, Russia will become a world leader in defending the public health of its citizens and in taking aggressive measures to decrease dependence on a deadly product that kills between 350,000 and 500,000 Russian citizens every year.
Among other provisions, the National Concept follows all FCTC guidelines, including a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorship, creating 100% smoke-free indoor public places, mandating warning labels that will keep the tobacco industry from hiding the health dangers of their products, and for increasing the price of tobacco products, which remain among the cheapest in the world.
Russia’s extraordinarily high rate of tobacco use imposes a devastating impact on health and is a major contributor to the demographic crisis rooted in high mortality rates. Forty-four million adults smoke in Russia and approximately one half of lifetime smokers will die of a smoking-related illness. More than 60 percent of Russian men smoke, a rate higher than those in China and Turkey, countries known for their high tobacco use.
Russia released these statistics in November, after conducting a national health survey according to international standards. These are the highest prevalence rates of any country where this survey was conducted – higher than China, higher than India. We applaud the Russian Ministry of Health and government for releasing these results and for so forcefully articulating how the National Concept will provide the science-based policies to reduce the tobacco epidemic and improve the nation’s health.
The National Concept follows the FCTC by outlining science-based policies that are simple, comprehensive, and that will provide maximum benefit to the largest number of people. Strong tobacco control laws can significantly reduce the health burden and mortality caused by smoking. In all countries where good tobacco control laws are enacted, smoking rates have dropped, fewer people start smoking, and costs for health care are reduced. We strongly urge the government to introduce strong legislation to effectively protect the Russian people from the harms of tobacco use, in fulfillment both of the National Concept and of Russia’s obligations under the FCTC.
We also wish to express deep concern about two tobacco-related bills introduced into the Duma recently and posted on the Duma website: Bill number 469463-5 “On Limiting the Use of Tobacco,” which addresses smoke-free places among other provisions; bill number 39103-5 “On Changes to Paragraph 23 of the Federal Law On Advertising,” which addresses restrictions on advertising.
Unfortunately, the proposed bills lack even the minimal provisions of effective tobacco control policy. If enacted, the proposed bills would undermine the National Concept, delay Russia’s compliance with its FCTC obligations, and leave Russian citizens unprotected from the number one preventable cause of death.
The international tobacco control community continues to follow with interest and excitement the progress Russia is making in enacting policies to protect its citizens from the most common and preventable form of non-communicable diseases in the world. We encourage you to take the strongest possible measures based on science and international best practices and become an international leader in enacting comprehensive and effective national public health legislation.
Shoba John Laurent Huber