Trying to fight alcoholism and cigarette smoking in major cities, Russia has finally decided to make changes that will prevent people from smoking on the streets and buying alcohol during specific hours. Will these new laws be effective? Nobody knows. In fact, some say that the new laws will backfire, in a sense that illegal purchase of booze will be on a rise.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that early in 2013, St. Petersburg passed a new law that prevents alcohol to be purchased between the hours of 10 p.m. and 11 a.m. The time frame was changed a few times, but in the end the lawmakers went with their first choice. Street markets, railway stations, and local shops that are close to hospitals and schools are also taking a hit to this new law. The new law prevents these areas and shops to sell alcohol altogether. Some suggest that the new law should be just the regulation of the price after a certain time. The authorities have also been cracking down on smoking.
Last year the Russian authorities decided that they should regulate smoking in public places. The bill was passed and now the cities are forced to implement the new law. If a person is caught smoking in a public place, they will be fined 1,000 to 1,500 rubles ($31-$47). If you smoke around or at playgrounds, the fine rises to 2,000 to 3,000 rubles ($63-$94). And don’t you dare encourage a minor to smoke, because then you’ll get fined 2,000 rubles ($63). Well, unless you’re a parent or a guardian who encourage you to smoke, the fine rises to 3,500 rubles ($110).
This new anti-smoking legislature also has an effect on TV productions. Characters in shows and films are no longer allowed to smoke on screen unless they can prove the cigarettes are fake and if the show was produced before 2013. So how do the people of Russia feel about these new legislatures? Before we hear from them, let Prime Minister Medvedev speak.
“Over 80 percent of our citizens, including two-thirds of regular smokers, support the fight against smoking. Let’s free our country from tobacco addiction together.”
Last summer I had the chance to actually see these laws being carried out in St. Petersburg. Or were they? When the anti-tobacco law got enacted, there wasn’t much of a difference on the streets. In fact, the people who were breaking these new laws were policemen. The cops were smoking on the streets like they hadn’t even heard about the new law.
When it comes to alcohol, one of my friends had an encounter with a Russian cop. As a group we thought, “Hey, what Russian activity can we do to kill some time? Drinking out in public sounded pretty exciting.” So we decided to take it easy and drink in the Palace Square. As we passed around a beer, a cop started walking towards us. Barely able to speak any Russian, Andrew was on his turn with the beer when the cop called out to him in Russian. Poor fellow. Andrew had no clue what he was saying, but a couple of us knew what he was saying. You’re not allowed to drink in public. Luckily, Andrew did not get fined. How were we supposed to know about the new law? After all, it is Russia.
So, Russia is changing their way of thinking. Good for them, let’s hope gay rights are next.