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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Ban On Alcohol, Cigarettes Softened

The government will not enforce a law passed by parliament banning all cigarette and alcohol advertising in Russia, but it may take selective action against some forms of advertisements, a government official said Tuesday.

A new health law, approved by President Boris Yeltsin July 22 but published only last week, includes a single sentence banning the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in all mass media.

Oleg Nifantev, member of the parliamentary committee on health protection which drafted the law, said Tuesday that the ban applied not only to newspapers, magazines, radio and television, but also to the many billboards that line the streets in many Russian cities.

But the government will enforce the ban only selectively, according to Sergei Luknitsky, head of the department for defense of freedom of the press at the Press Ministry, which has been charged with preparing government regulations to enforce the ban.

"We will not take any draconian measures, because alcohol and cigarette advertising is a major source of income for many newspapers", Luknitsky said. "We will look for a compromise".

Although he said he is still drafting plans to enforce the ban, Luknitsky said he would probably do little more than ban television ads at certain times and make certain pages in the print media off limits for such ads. He said he did not think the ban applied to billboards.

Russian television runs commercials for cigarettes and alcohol, but only after 10 P. M. - a self-imposed restriction that Luknitsky said was quite close to what he had in mind.

In the United States, cigarette and alcohol ads are banned from television and radio, and require a health warning when published in the print media and on billboards. Many European countries enforce only limited restrictions.

Advertisers said they had only just heard of the law and could not comment, but the newly founded Association of Russian Advertisers announced it will lobby for changes in the law.

The Moscow City Council earlier adopted a similar ban, but a salesperson for a Western advertising firm, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the firm had ignored the city ban on the grounds that Mayor Yury Luzhkov had not approved it.

A spokesman for the City Council, however, said that city laws do not require a signature from the mayor to go into effect.

Moscow is still plastered with cigarette and alcohol billboards, and many Moscow publications run advertisements for alcohol and tobacco.