Moscow Mulls a Big 'Nyet' to Smoking

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For a country of smokers, it's a draconian plan: The Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, has made the first moves toward an anti-smoking ban of Californian proportions. The ban would cover all workplaces, stadiums, schools, universities, theaters, hospitals, public transport - nearly every place where Russians light up. Russians smoke some 3 billion cigarettes each year. According to the official stats, 77percent of men smoke. The chairman of the Duma health committee, one intrepid Nikolai Gerasimenko, has launched a crusade to save his comrades' lungs. Gerasimenko, a surgeon from the Altai region in western Siberia, chain-smoked for three decades before converting, as he says, to "an oxygen-enhanced life." The bill passed a first reading by a 297-to-43 vote. It still has to pass two more readings and then the upper house before going to Boris Yeltsin to be signed into law.

On Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow's main drag, a clutch of teen smokers were underwhelmed by Gerasimenko's ban - which envisions cutting all smoking scenes from TV and films. "I've been smoking since 10," said Vadim, 15, displaying his yellowed teeth. "They can make all the restrictions in the world, but no one's going to keep Mr. Philip Morris from me."