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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 00:06 GMT
Female smokers 'double in Russia'
cigarette
Smoking rates have been increasing in Russia
Smoking rates have more than doubled in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, researchers say.

The Bath University-led team said "aggressive targeting" of women by tobacco firms was behind the rise.

Researchers monitoring 7,000 people over 11 years found 7% of women smoked in 1992, compared with 15% in 2003, the Tobacco Control journal reports.

Manufacturer British American Tobacco said the increase was due to Russians having more money for cigarettes.

The researchers, who also included teams from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said tobacco advertising had been virtually non-existent in the Soviet Union.

Companies invested heavily in developing the market, promoting smoking as part of the new 'western lifestyle'
Dr Anna Gilmore, lead researcher

But once the break-up started, the nationalised smoking industry disintegrated, allowing the big tobacco firms to push their products.

The report said the firms became "rampant" and by the mid-1990s it was estimated that half of all billboards in Moscow and three quarters of plastic bags in the country carried tobacco advertising.

Lead researcher Dr Anna Gilmore said: "There can be no doubt that the marketing tactics of Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and the like directly underpin this massive increase in smoking that spells disaster for health in Russia.

"Following privatisation of the tobacco industry, companies invested heavily in developing the market, promoting smoking as part of the new 'Western lifestyle'."

Falling

As well as the increase in female smokers, the number of men smoking rose from 57% in 1992 to 63% in 2003.

It comes as smoking rates in most Western countries have been falling.

In the UK, the number of people smoking has been declining for decades.

In 1974 nearly half of adults smoked but that has now been reduced to under a quarter.

A British American Tobacco spokeswoman denied underhand tactics were to blame for any increase.

"As disposable incomes have grown - a result of Russia's booming economy - consumers have started to purchase more of the luxury goods they would previously have been unable to afford.

"This includes items such as designer clothes, cars and cigarettes."

Philip Morris failed to provide a comment.

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