(dpa) - Russia's lower house ratified on Friday the World Health Organization's convention against tobacco, the consumption of which, according to the WHO, kills about 400,000 people per year in Russia alone.
The 2003 WHO tobacco control convention, the world's most widely ratified treaty, aims to provide national governments a framework with which to kick the habit.
At the session, the head of Russia's State Duma healthcare committee said the ratio of smokers in Russia is double as high as that of Western Europe.
Russian anti-tobacco legislation is practically non-existent at present and lawmakers smoke freely in their offices and the halls of government buildings.
Anti-tobacco campaigners blamed tobacco lobbyists Friday for the slow move toward tobacco regulation in Russia, which has soaked in huge tobacco investments in recent years as companies face increasingly tough markets elsewhere.
The cabinet in January took the first step toward changing the nation's liberal attitude toward smoking by endorsing a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships.
Present law forbids radio, television and outdoor tobacco advertising, but glamourous smoking ads adorn the metro and glossy magazines.
In Moscow, promoters often make the rounds of bars and restaurants with free hand outs and are welcomed to exhibit openings and other private events.
"It's clear, that restrictive measures will not solve everything. ... Serious results will come only if the society's psychology changes," Duma speaker Oleg Morozov was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying Friday.
Restricting advertising and requiring that at least 30 per cent of cigarettes packets carry health warnings is the first of five steps committed to by convention signatories.
The tobacco control convention requires signatory countries to discourage consumption with tax hikes on cigarettes. A pack of Russia's cheapest cigarettes cost less than 30 US cents per pack.
Russia also only taxes tobacco producers 3 per cent compared with some 50 per cent in Western Europe, according to the WHO.
"In Europe a pack of cigarettes costs about 5 euros, while in Russia the cost of a pack of this poisonous trash is equal to staple products like a roll of bread or litre of milk," a member from the Duma Committee on Healthcare Tatyana Yakovleva told her fellow lawmakers.
Within a five year period, the WHO convention envisions that Russia will ban smoking in public places, a measure instituted in most of Western Europe this past year.
Some 60 per cent of Russian men and 27 per cent of women smoke, deputies cited government statics Friday, saying the figures were up from previous years across the board.