Guest post by Dmitry Kosyrev
There were still no smoking rooms in the Domodedovo airport near Moscow when I was flying away from Russia in early January, but soon they’ll be reopened after seven years’ absence. The amendment to the anti-smoking law has passed both chambers of the Russian parliament and signed by the President on December 28, last year. All that time we, hundreds of people participating in the battle, were keeping our fingers crossed, for fear of some last-minute trouble.
That was a very, very small victory over the huge Tobacco Control machine. But, nevertheless, a victory it was, and, as such, it’s worth a serious study.
Only one man, an MP Mr. Sergey Boyarsky, had authored the relevant amendment. The name Boyarsky is famous all over the land, since Sergey’s father,
Michail Boyarsky, is a revered actor, loved for his role of chevalier d’Artagnan from a movie of the 1970-s. To put it simply, Michail has created a living symbol of a real man and a true warrior for several generations of Russians.
Mr. Boyarsky Sr. is also the honorary President of our all-Russia Movement for Smoker’s Rights. His son is not even a member of the movement. But he is an MP from the ruling United Russia party.
First thing to note in that smoking-room plot is the length of the battle. The Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 was evolving much faster. It took only 8 months to break the back of Hitler’s military might and reverse the course of the whole Second World War. But in the smoking room’s case I’ve heard from reliable sources that “the general consensus have been reached, we’ll open them again” more than a year before the amendment had been finally accepted by the low chamber. And there were also months of fighting the TC before that consensus. The amendment was getting out of the schedule of debates again and again. But it kept getting itself back.
Second thing to keep in mind was Sergei’s non-confrontational tactics. I myself was hopping mad, participating in numerous TV & radio shows on the matter, when Sergey’s face was emerging again on the screens via Skype. I gave up smoking long ago, he was saying. Smoking is bad, he was asserting. But the airports is a special case, we are talking about international norms and customs, broken by the 2013 “the strictest anti-smoking law in the world”. We are not talking about a wholesale murder of that law, Sergei was claiming, but only about correcting certain excesses of it.
Now, if I was an MP, I’d have said that the whole law had to be scrapped, and the lying, inhuman bastards of the TC were to be investigated and maybe jailed. I want a complete denormalization of anti-smoking, not just the airports, I was saying when given the word on the same shows.
But I know well enough that I had no chance of winning all the needed MP votes this way, if I was in Boyarsky’s chair.
I’ve willingly played my role of an extremist in these debates, making Sergey look soft, compromise-prone and realistic against my background. So, we, Russians, are still too willing to follow the general “international trend” on that matter and not ready to step out of the line.
The people voting for the amendment consisted of two categories. The first category thinks just like me, knowing in detail that we are dealing with a huge scam. The second category is not in favor of smoking, but knows well that the bans do not work and create a lot of problems, like dozens of commuters smoking in the airport’s toilets.
It’s common knowledge that several provincial airports never closed their smoking rooms, laws be damned. These were been closed for a short while only when yet another inspection was about to descend on them, and so the inspectors were warning their friends at the airports. The same relates to many other bans, all over the country. The nation is blocking the “bandits” very efficiently.
So, let us look at the third conclusion from our battle experience. The people firmly standing with Sergey all this time were the managers of all the airports of Russia, and also several ministries relentlessly blocking a lot of yet new bans proposed by the Health ministry. In the end, it was they who won the battle, cutting the TC lobby down to size.
And here we have the most precious lesson of the whole story: you can defeat the TC bastards if you have patience and endurance. Their defeat may seem small, but a defeat it is. That’s an event of global importance.
You had to see their desperation and fury at the very fact that the parliament was going to make a step back in fighting smoking, when them, the TC frontpeople, were offering a whole new array of further steps to humiliate millions of smokers. They spoke, they foamed at the mouth, they blasted the Boyarsky’s amendment – and still they lost. So we all know by now they are not all-powerful.
It’s really important for them, the bastards, to move forward, not backward.
If they don’t move forward, their effort is useless. And so every small victory of ours is not so small, after all.