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20 November 2008

ATACa members started a legal action at the federal level and in the four Russian cities.

On the 20th of November 2008 Russian Anti-tobacco advocacy coalition (ATACa) members started a legal action at the federal level and in the four Russian cities, hopefully with more upcoming.
It started in the summer 2008 with sending a letter to the Ministry of health of Russian Federation Coalition asking whether tobacco is toxic. Coalition received a confirmation that tobacco products are the only of a kind, containing carcinogens, toxins, mutagens, etc. and still being sold to the public. The Coalition send a reply to the MOH asking why are tobacco products sold to public if they are toxic, but did not get a reply as yet.
On the Smokeout day, the 20th of November 2008, some members of the Coalition in Moscow, and several more members of the Coalition in four biggest Russian cities visited the prosecutors office to submit statements asking to start a criminal case against all owners of points of sales and heads of companies producing tobacco products according to article 238 of the Criminal code, which stipulates up to 3 years of imprisonment for sales and production of goods which do not meet safety criteria or cause harm to health. The statements were send or submitted in person to Prosecutor General of Russia, City prosecutors and municipality prosecutors as per places of production of the toxic goods.    
It needs to be added that article 7 para. 2 of the Constitution of Russian Federation states that in Russia health of the people is protected, article 20 guarantees right to life, article 41 of the Constitution stipulated right to health as priority, article 42 stipulates right for safe environment. Production and sales of tobacco products are therefore contradictory to constitution and several other framework laws of Russian Federation, including the law on the bases for health protection. Additionally nicotine addiction (as well as environmental tobacco smoke and lack of awareness of health effects among people in Russia) violate the “voluntary agreement” at transaction, meaning that the tobacco sales should not be regulated by Civil code of Russia.    
As far as we aware this is the first legal suit raising the issue of whether tobacco can be legal at all for quite a long time, and the first one made on the above bases. The Coalition members realize that immediate illegalizing of tobacco is not possible or needed given that 40 million of Russian people have some degree of nicotine addiction. We also realize possible personal consequences of going against the industry and generally accepted approaches. However we feel that the action will be both useful in changing the attitudes of decision-makers and public towards the nature of tobacco, going at least as far and hopefully further than FCTC permits and braking the opposition of the tobacco lobby. It might also lead to development of a longer term approaches to complete illegalizing of tobacco production and sales over a period of 15-25 years, such as regulated market.      

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