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Marlboro Man rides into Russia


As tobacco firms invest millions, smoking on the rise

July 13, 1997
Web posted at: 10:21 p.m. EDT (0221 GMT)

From Correspondent Steve Harrigan

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Joe Camel may have been forced into an untimely demise in the United States. But perhaps Boris Camel can take his place.

Western tobacco companies under assault from regulators and public opinion back home have found a promised land in Russia, where very little stands in their way.

Russia's tobacco invasion
icon 2 min. VXtreme video

"There is no money in the ministry for an anti-smoking campaign," sais Galina Tkashenko of the Russian Health Ministry. "Most people in the government see smoking as just a habit that's not very important."


According to industry analysts, Western companies have plowed more than half a billion dollars into Russia, retooling old Soviet factories and repackaging old Soviet cigarette brands. They also advertise heavily, using familiar American symbols such as billboards with the Marlboro Man.

Over the last dozen years, the rise in smoking in Russia has been dramatic. According to the health ministry, one out of two Russian men smoked in 1985. Today, two out of three men smoke, in a country where normal life expectancy for men has fallen to just 58 years.

The rate of smoking among women has risen even more sharply. About 10 percent of them smoked in 1985, while about 30 percent smoke today.

Russia has seen a psychological change when it comes to smoking, which, in Soviet times, was viewed as anti-social behavior. Now, smoking is accepted as normal, even for children.


On the streets of Moscow, elderly women pensioners sell packs of cigarettes to anyone with the cash, no matter how young. Among the child smokers is 11-year-old Artem. His mother buys him cigarettes.

"In families, for 13- or 14-year-olds to smoke is now accepted as normal behavior," says substance abuse expert Oleg Zykov.


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