A Russian Defeat for Tobacco Control

After not being able to access my blog a few days ago, regular reader Dmitri Kossyrev suggested that he might write a guest piece about the recent defeat (yes, defeat!) suffered by the Russian branch of Tobacco Control. Of particular interest to me in his piece was the mention of the Tobacco Control conference in Moscow, which I’ve covered before.

Dmitri has made guest appearances on my blog before (here, writing about Donald Trump, and here about the Russian smoking ban), when I introduced him as a Russian journalist, sinologist, and smoking activist. I neglected to mention that he is also one of the most prominent thriller/crime writers in Russia today, with a string of books to his name, but only one in an English translation: The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas.

My Baby Shot Me Down 

by Dmitri Kossyrev

Several things have happened to the Russian Health Ministry’s anti-smoking campaign, and all of them are good.

First, they had a Concept. A glorious Concept of fighting smoking until the year 2022, and maybe onwards. The Ministry distributed that concept paper to other governmental departments and the general public last autumn, and waited for a response, calling it “a public discussion”.

You all know what was in the plan: Plain packaging, by the year so-and-so. Raising excise tax on cigarettes and e-cigs “to the EU level”, by the year so-and- so. Introducing further bans in open air places, by the year so-and- so. And, finally, there had to be a prohibition on anyone born after the year 2015 from buying any tobacco at all.

The end result is zero. The Concept has been edited by the Ministry after the “public discussion” and published in its revised form. It became a general and empty declaration of intent, since every concrete figure, especially all these mentions of the year so-and-so, had been edited out. Any experienced bureaucrat, and the general public too, knows very well what it means: It means precisely nothing at all.

So what went… right? I’d be happy to say that “we did it” – that is, the Russian Movement for Smoker’s Rights. Our leaders, comprising People’s Artists and other celebrities, did write letters to the President and the Prime Minister. And people like me did write columns (I do it weekly) and participated in fierce debates on  TV and radio.

But it was not us. Or not only us. True, I’ve seen publications in national leading newspapers about the scam of passive smoking, containing the facts, or passages taken from my columns. And then there were other writers who did the same, completely on their own.

But TC had been expecting all that. They were carefully arranging debates without opposition, parliamentary hearings without all the proper speakers.

All very familiar. But they failed.

First was that initiative about the people born after 2015. I’ve told my audience, many times, that it was only a decoy. That idea was to raise real hell, as in “How about the Constitution?” and “Are they totally crazy?”. Then TC was supposed to accept the public verdict, taking this decoy out of their Concept, while keeping the rest of the ugly stuff there: See, we made a compromise.

But the rest of the stuff went, too.

Second, when one office suggests some new legislation, it has to submit it to other offices and wait for their official response. And they’ve got it. Ministries of Industry and Economy wrote that plain packaging is mad, because it opens the door to fakes. Raising taxes to the EU level opens the door to smuggling of cigarettes to Russia from the Eurasian Union. The police, reportedly, giggled about the real (and very predictable) impact of that 2015 idea.

Third, there was a case with the so-called “Young Lions” movement, harassing people in public places and dousing their cigarettes with water pistols. It caused public outrage and prodded top politicians into statements like: “Boys, you can’t do that”.

Fourth, while the Health Ministry was murmuring “My baby shot me down”, yet another office, the Ministry of Finance, lunged at it. It has started a corruption investigation into the matter of 20 million US dollars for a mansion in Moscow meant for the WHO anti-smokers. And yet another investigation started on the maybe 18 million euros (at the current rates), spent by the same Ministry in 2014 on the Framework Convention gala in Moscow. It’s public money, the finance people reportedly said. Why so much – and where are the results of the past 5 years of frenetic anti-tobacco activity? And don’t give us that fake data about everybody giving it up.

All these things happened almost at the same time.

The bad guys will of course regroup and re-launch their attack. But still a little victory is always good for you. Helps you to prepare for a counter-attack.

In the meantime I can’t help spreading a bit of Russian propaganda. I don’t know if we are a free country (I don’t believe such countries exist). Our civil society may not believe in free media and the benefits of rallies and demonstrations. Do you? In our case it was the top bureaucracy that has checked the onslaught of the crazies. It was the people who were coming to members of our organization and quietly asking: how to stop that madness? So, we are a country where bureaucracy matters a lot.

But, still, I’ve enjoyed access to top TV and radio programs, where the hosts, sometimes, have been openly on my side (or have been telling me that secretly). Do you? And in general the public mood has been (and still is) if not for smoking, then against the ugly methods of fighting it.

So, I just cannot help thinking that sometimes it’s good to be Russian. That is, if you know how to ignore the testing climate.

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22 Responses to A Russian Defeat for Tobacco Control

  1. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Excellent that we were able to give them facts to fight with on the Russian side of the fence!

    Keep up the good work my Russian ally

  2. nisakiman says:

    Oh well done, Dmitri! What uplifting news. Bravo the Russians. How nice it would be if the same attitude were to permeate the governments throughout the world.

    My optimistic side tells me that the anti-smoking pogrom is unsustainable, and will be exposed for the scam that it is, The pessimist in me says that I won’t see Tobacco Control crash and burn in my lifetime, given that I’m 67 nudging 68 already, And that hurts, as I would dearly love to see ASH turned to ashes, and all the liars called out on their deceits; and publicly disgraced; and de-funded. I’d die happy, then!

  3. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    Good to see the Russian Ministry of Finance investigating the corrupt waste of taxpayers’ money on the WHO’s Moscow COP, at which our own Ms Arnott enjoyed luxury living while conspiring to stuff the smokers yet again. If the Ministry finds that money was improperly used at this event, will our Debs denounce the waste and vow not to go to another one?

    I doubt that the WHO would ever risk holding one of their COP events in this UK, because they ought not to be able to ban the press and public so easily and if they do, both they and the government are likely to suffer some extremely public criticism.

    Mind you, the ban on press and public didn’t stop our own government from splashing another £15 million of UK taxpayers’ money on anti-smoker activities after the last COP in India. Time for our own ‘Ministry of Finance’ to investigate the waste of funds there?

    Not holding my breath. It would seem our own bureaucracy is more corrupt than Russia’s.


    • Harleyrider1978 says:

      Still waiting to see what trumps doing here but I believe he is slashing and burning all findings to crap that’s worthless he just cut funding NPR and several others and I’d suspect the higher priority is cutting money to groups like TC

  4. smokingscot says:


    Sunday Express is running an article on the changes we smokers will see from May 20th (though in fairness most have happened already).

    In a way it’s helpful, save for the gratuitous video they’ve got embedded.

    It’s the comments I find remarkable. This being a Sunday the paid trolls are few and far between, yet there seems to be a great deal of very clued up people who read this paper and see it for what it is. Oh and they have fun with “those who quit and ain’t they so much better off because they did”.


  5. Smoking Lamp says:

    This is good news! Hopefully the tobacco control regime in Russia falls apart and smoking bans are rescinded. Of course I hope the same for China, Japan, and Australia, the UK, Canada, US and EU too! It appears there is a movement aiming to repeal the recently imposed smoking bans in the Czech Republic so perhaps there is a little hope for the first time in a while.

    • Rose says:

      Senators want court to abolish smoking ban in restaurants
      17 March 2017

      “Prague, March 16 (CTK) – Czech senators have proposed the Constitutional Court (US) to abolish the “anti-smoking” law’s provisions such as the smoking ban in restaurants and the sale of alcohol in vending machines, Jaroslav Kubera and Ivo Valenta told CTK on behalf of the proposal’s 20 signatories on Thursday.

      Kubera (Civic Democrats, ODS), Valenta (unaffiliated) and the other signatories say the anti-smoking law, which is to take effect as of June, inadmissibly infringes upon citizens’ freedom.

      They say the law’s implementation will thwart the investments made by thousands of bar and restaurant owners.

      “The smoking ban imposed by the law definitely is not a health protection measure. It is another step to curtail and abolish our freedoms, and to secure profit and the control of people for those up there,” Kubera said.”

      The UK was such a pushover it must have emboldened TC.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Unfortunately, Rose, I won’t be able to put any of Rose’s Garden in my reference section. Tony emailed me, and it’s all zip and html files that I can’t upload. I’m only allowed image files and docs and pdfs. I should have remembered before suggesting it.

        • Tony says:

          That’s a pity. Thanks for trying though.
          Just for information, there are approximately 100 files. These are just Internet pages (html files). The sort you get if you save a page using your browser.
          Rather than attach 100 files though, I rolled them all up into a single zip file for convenience.

  6. Lepercolonist says:

    Donald Trump may cut funding by 50% to the U.N. The U.S. spends 10 billion dollars annually for the U.N. Which is over half of the U.N. budget. The WHO may have to make deep cuts. Tough times ahead for Tobacco Control ?

  7. Pingback: The Amusement Provided by Tobacco Control | Bolton Smokers Club

  8. narbanor says:

    Hopefully a decisive setback for the global pack of RATZ that has been plaguing the world for seven decades! Seems that, finally, they’ve gotten seriously ahead of themselves. Considering the fear of what is essentially nothing else than a benign and rather pleasant aromatic smoke had barely been instilled into the Russians’ minds before the year 2000, by imagining they could impose all the phases of their insane agenda so swiftly, they seriously messed with the collective psyche of the people over there. Did they think Russia would allow itself to become, in so short a timeframe, aligned with the cookiest anti-smoking countries, that have been brainwashed on the subject for half a century or more, such as OZ and NZ (with its proposed (?) policy of banning all people born after 2000 – i.e. the offspring of the whiny millennial snowflakes – from purchasing tobacco products)?
    The 2014 Moscow jamboree has been a moral obscenity of the first order (obscene being a word that etymologically means ‘off the scene/stage’, and applies to these things that are better kept off the pubcludilic eye: by exng the press and the common people at large from attending their conference, the ANTZ made the use of that word to describe their machinations fully legitimate). Not that the venues where the Press have been allowed were any less obscene either. When faced with a deluge of lies and misrepresentations of facts, the Press, as a proper “fourth estate”, should NOT go with the flow. In those instances, the obscenity remained in full view, and yet the public was left to its own devices!

    May this gross strategical error prove fatal to their insane agenda and cost them dearly (namely: their ill-gotten assets, and totally unwarranted latitude to lie to the people)!

    I once commented here, perhaps prematurely, that a “winter of Russian smokers’ discontent” was upcoming. At the end of the third winter since the imposition of public smoking bans in Russia, maybe the moment has come at last…

    DISCLAIMER: In spite of expressing stark hostility to each and every pronouncement TC (their supposed arch-enemy) ever made in the MSM, I have not seen the colour of so-called Big Tobacco’s money EVER, not a cent or penny from them as yet!

    • narbanor says:

      “the pubcludilic eye: by exng the press ”

      read: “the public eye: by excluding the press…”

    • Frank Davis says:

      Considering the fear of what is essentially nothing else than a benign and rather pleasant aromatic smoke had barely been instilled into the Russians’ minds before the year 2000,

      Given this, I’m surprised that Russia has any smoking ban at all, to be honest. I asked Dmitri a while back about this, and he said it was a very good question, and he didn’t know the answer.

      There’s also the climate. It can and does get very, very cold in Russia. As Dmitri wrote recently:

      Try to smoke outside in such climate. One of the reasons why our Siberians and the rest will never accept all these bans.

      I didn’t think a Russian smoking ban would last 6 months. But I think that one result was the instant creation of a strong and active resistance movement.

      pubcludilic: one of those clueless people who don’t know what to drink that you sometimes find in pubs?

    • The press should have responded to their exclusion by making their OWN news story out of it.

      All they’d have needed was a well-planned non-violent demo that included a few nice arrests and “led way in handcuffs” shots. Just a half dozen volunteer news folks willing to sit down one-by-one and block the doors that the press was not allowed through (and thereby also blocking anyone else going in and out) would have eventually resulted in security being called and the glorious miscreant being carried away. Five or ten minutes later, the next newsperson (or, if there were enough, 2, and then 3, and then 4… etc) would sit and block the door, thereby creating yet ANOTHER “news event” for their colleagues and a public awareness and questioning of the great need for secrecy by the Antismokers.

      Yes, there is an unwritten dictum out there that news media are not supposed to “become” the news they are covering… BUT… in a situation where they are specifically being PREVENTED from properly covering news that’s clearly in the public interest such a dictum no longer prevails.

      – MJM

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