Although smoking levels among Russian women are much lower (21.6% smoke daily), this figure is the highest among women in the newly independent states (NIS). The NIS comprise Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The prevalence of smoking among young people is also high, with smoking among boys rising: in a recent WHO study, 27.4% of 15-year-old boys smoked at least weekly (an increase of 3.4% in four years), while 18.5% of 15-year-old girls smoked at least weekly.
At a time when tobacco products are becoming more expensive in most countries in the European Region, their price in the Russian Federation fell by over 6% in real terms between 2002 and mid-2005.
The Russian Federation has yet to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires countries to impose comprehensive measures including restrictions on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, to establish new controls on labelling and indoor air quality, and to strengthen legislation to clamp down on tobacco smuggling.
Although smoking is restricted in certain public places in the Russian Federation, including health care, educational and government facilities, workplaces, cinemas and theatres, these restrictions are not as extensive as other countries in the Region. There is no restriction on smoking in bars and restaurants.
WHO has been supporting strengthening tobacco control in the Russian Federation in recent years. This has included cooperation and support in the process for the European Strategy for Tobacco Control, the development of a national strategy for non-communicable disease prevention and control, and most recently work through the Bloomberg Global Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.
The European tobacco control report 2007 provides further information on smoking in the Russian Federation and throughout the European Region. The launch of the Russian version of the report is taking place in St Petersburg, Russian Federation on 31 May 2007.
At the end of May, important meetings have been organized in the Russian Federation, such as the All Russian National Forum - Health or Tobacco, in Moscow, and celebrations for World No Tobacco Day in St Petersburg. WHO and other international partners are joining these events and providing their support.
Tobacco is the second most important cause of death in the world. It is well known that half the people who smoke regularly today - about 650 million people - will eventually be killed by their habit. Equally alarming is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked die each year from diseases caused by breathing second-hand tobacco smoke.
Every year, World No Tobacco Day provides a focus for anti-tobacco advocacy activities. This celebration, on 31 May, informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations. In 2007, the focus is on the dangers of second-hand smoke and everyone's right to enjoy smoke-free environments.