Russian lawmakers have passed a bill that would put e-cigarettes, including heated tobacco products and vaping devices and cartridges, on an equal footing with traditional cigarettes and tobacco products. This would mean a total ban on sales to minors and restrictions in terms of promotion and trade.
Russia’s State Duma passed the proposal at third reading on Tuesday in an overwhelming vote, with more than 400 lawmakers backing it. It must now be approved by the upper house of the Russian parliament and signed by the president before entering into force.
The bill amends several existing laws, including the law that regulates the trade and consumption of tobacco. It also applies to vape cartridges that don’t contain nicotine and bans flavored varieties that experts say are more appealing to younger consumers.
The bill’s sponsors say the idea that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes is far from reality, citing medical studies. Minors who use them become risky smokers after developing a nicotine addiction, lawmakers said. Applying the same regulations to e-cigs and regular tobacco makes sense, they added.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin previously announced plans to introduce higher taxes on e-cigarettes to discourage consumption. Commenting on the passing of the legislation, he said that by raising taxes enough, vapes would become “inaccessible in principle”.
Critics of the bill have warned that it could drive people to switch to regular cigarettes and create a black market for their electronic alternatives.
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