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Butt Out, Russian Officials

Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)



  • Russians are resentful of overzealous officials proposing bans targeting their way of life.
    Photo: Gordon Anthony McGowan / Flickr

“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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Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



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