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Russia Launching Anti-Tobacco CampaignAired May 31, 2000 - 2:40 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The World Health Organization launched an aggressive campaign today against cigarette makers. The group is marking what it calls "World No Tobacco Day." The WHO accuses the tobacco industry of targeting children to replace the 11,000 smokers who die each day. The Geneva-based organization predicts 10 million tobacco-related deaths a year by 2030, most of them in developing countries. Russia is trying to avoid that kind of statistic with its own anti-tobacco campaign.
Here's CNN's Matthew Chance in Moscow.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Applause for the winners of a competition that could have literally meant life or death. Here, reformed smokers who've given up for more than a year are collecting their rewards from the Russian Ministry of Health. The prospect of cash or a new television set, out of the reach of many Russians, has been incentive enough for these people to quit.
"Even if I hadn't won a prize," says this woman, "I'm glad to have finally kicked the habit."
But outside, Russia's infatuation with the cigarette has developed into an unhealthy obsession. Aggressive marketing of popular brands has helped fuel the dangerous rise in nicotine addiction. As much as 75 percent of Russian men are smokers and 30 percent of women, some of the highest rates in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's cool to smoke, especially after a beer. I know it's a bad habit, but I started when I was in the army and had nothing else to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If you're healthy and you feel fine, how can it be harmful?
CHANCE: It's an attitude that fills Russia's hospital beds. Wards are now crammed with the victims of long-term smoking and are ill-equipped to treat lung cancers and the host of respiratory diseases linked to tobacco.
Campaigners are calling this a national emergency.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a catastrophe for Russia and its people. We have been trying to explain to the authorities that people are dying, but there is simply no money for the help we need.
CHANCE: It's a stark message, but the government's response appears to be having little effect. This poster campaign on the streets of Moscow simply warns that smoking underage is illegal in the Russian Federation.
CHANCE (on camera): The signs are bleak for the anti-tobacco lobby here. Legislators have already decided that tighter restrictions on cigarette manufacturers could make prices unaffordable on the street, depriving millions of ordinary Russians of a cheap pleasure, even if it is one that could kill them.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.
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