Butt Out, Russian Officials
Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)
“Women Under 40 Prohibited,” shouted the newspaper headline.
“From what?” I wondered. Becoming judges or school principals? Joining social clubs for the middle-aged?
The answer, when I read further, was equally absurd.
The article was on a proposal debated in the Russian parliament this month. Lawmaker Ivan Nikitchuk had introduced a bill to ban the sale of cigarettes to women under 40. Violators would be fined 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($90 to $150).
Let’s leave on one side the obviously discriminatory nature of a legislative move that would be unthinkable in any other European country.
Although the idea seems straight out of a political satire, it is indicative of a way of thinking in the upper echelons of government. Many Russian officials believe that tight control and restrictions are the best approach to a range of social issues from drug addiction to reproductive health.
Nikitchuk says the smoking ban for younger women would help “preserve the genetic resources of the nation.”
“All normal Russian people want to leave a healthy generation to follow after them, and we do not want our country to turn into a land of disabled people and allergy sufferers,” Nikitchuk said in an interview with Kommersant.
“When a woman smokes, she creates infertility risks for herself and is much more likely to give birth to an unhealthy child. Over the past 20 years the number of women in Russia who smoke has tripled. And it is high time to act.”
Asked why the proposed ban does not target the male population, Nikitchuk said — wait for it — that men who smoke have already punished themselves enough because smoking effectively reduces their sexual potency.
In recent months the Russian state has produced an avalanche of ever more sophisticated and intrusive restrictions meant to improve public health.
In February, Russian officials expressed grave concerns about the quality of women’s underwear and banned lingerie that does not reach a 6 percent threshold for moisture absorption.
Moisture absorption in many of the most popular synthetics used in frilly panties is reportedly around only 3 to 3.6 percent. All of these “wrong” types of lingerie are due to disappear from the shelves in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, which form a customs union, by July 1.
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