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Russia: Tobacco taxes to finance healthcare
July 31, 2013, 3:45 pm

Two women smoke at a downtown street in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok. [AP]

The smoking ban is set to be extended next year [AP]

Speaking at the State Council Presidium meeting on increasing access to quality medical care, Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that tobacco taxes could help fund spending on healthcare.

President Putin has tasked the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry to work out the modalities for using tobacco taxes for the development of public healthcare.

“This is a first step and a right step. Healthcare can never have too much funds. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight for tobacco control,” Dr Victor Grinchenko, a Professor at the International Academy of Sobriety told The BRICS Post.

“We need to explain harmful effects of smoking and raise prices simultaneously,” Grinchenko said.

Russia introduced a smoking ban in public places this June in an attempt to decrease the smoking population in the country.

The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has asked Russia to take tougher measures to curb smoking by 2015.

The smoking ban will be extended next year and the price of tobacco is already on the rise.

Russia’s Health Ministry recently suggested an even sharper increase in tobacco excise taxes driving the price of a pack to at least $3.50 in 2015 against the current $1.30.

The president, however, spoke against a sharp increase in prices.

“I know about the government’s plans to increase excise taxes, but it should be a gradual increase. It’s a very tangible matter. What did the fight against alcohol lead to? People just started to distill themselves and drink denaturated alcohol. It’s very complicated work that requires lots of efforts, but only this will eventually bring about results,” he said.

Each Russian region currently has its own healthcare programme, but many face deficits in their funding.

Last year, President Putin said 66 regions had a combined deficit of 164 billion rubles ($5.1 billion).

The situation has improved this year, but the total deficit in 54 regions is still over 120 billion rubles ($3.8 billion).

“Let me stress that the funding for free medical care must correspond to the volume of care. If regional programmes guarantee a certain set of services but the funding for them is not made available, that means there are no guarantees,” Putin highlighted.

By Daria Chernyshova in Moscow, Russia for The BRICS POST