Although tobacco isn't the only factor contributing to Russia's shrinking population, which has even been called a demographic crisis, smoking is a major cause of Russia's exceedingly high death rates linked to non-natural causes. (Alcohol abuse is the top non-natural killer.)
Around 44 million of Russia's 138 million people smoke, according to government estimates. Up to 400,000 people in Russia die annually due to tobacco-related causes, as reported by Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe.
Smoking is not only widespread, but tobacco itself is cheap. According to that same RFE/RL report, cigarettes are actually cheaper than chocolate because of a lack of taxes intended to raise the price and discouraging new smokers.
Unlike many other developed nations, Russia doesn't yet have laws on the books banning smoking in public places. That could change by 2014, however, when Russia is due to host the Winter Olympics. The health ministry intends to impose stringent smoking bans by then, according to the Moscow Times.
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