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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry: Age of Street Marketers Must Be 35

Like sirens, they come tempting with gifts.

Standing in shops, bars and by metros, clusters of beautiful, young women smile and offer cigarettes and snazzy-branded souvenirs to passers-by.

But all that was before.

Now, if the Anti-Monopoly Ministry gets its way, Muscovites may have to accept smokes and knickknacks from beautiful, middle-aged women.

The Anti-Monopoly Ministry is cracking down on promotional activities for tobacco and alcohol by restricting marketers to only using women and men over the age of 35.

Some $10 million to $15 million is spent merely on handing out samples like cigarettes every year, according to Sergei Moiseyev, president of the Sales-Promotion association. Until now, students made up most of the 3,000 to 4,000 people employed in Moscow.

But starting at the end of 2000, advertising agencies began to receive letters from the ministry reminding them that the use of young people in promoting cigarettes and alcohol is a violation of the law on advertising.

Some advertisers are balking at the notice, countering that the law is vague and, depending on the interpretation, could be construed to include not only people hired to hand out samples and souvenirs but also models on billboards.

Companies that hire promotional staff younger than 35 can expect fines of 20,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles, said Olga Odintsova, deputy of the Moscow department of the ministry.

"The young are always attractive with a healthy look," said a source at the Anti-Monopoly Ministry who asked not to be identified.

Perhaps the use of older people will show buyers what will happen to them if they smoke and drink, the source said.

The ministry, however, would no doubt be disappointed if it were to catch a glimpse of Lena Gazibar. The cheerful and very young-looking 35-year-old promotes Marlboro cigarettes at a Perekryostok supermarket and did not look like she was scaring anybody away on a recent day.

"I think that you need to be older," Gazibar said of the age restriction. Young girls frequently have to fight off men looking for dates, she said.

Moscow advertising agency Coral Promotions, which earns half its annual $1.2 million turnover from tobacco, has already begun training an older brigade of cigarette promoters.

To promote Philip Morris' most inexpensive brand, Optima, the company has trained a crew of 40 people older than 35, two-thirds of whom are women and the oldest one is 48.

"As the director of the company, I'm satisfied with their work," said Anna Vasilyeva, general director of Coral. "They're more responsible. They don't have any complexes about promoting the product. But of course young girls look more spectacular."

The promoters earn $2 an hour for a six-hour working day.

Promotion-Service, which also works with Philip Morris, has recently taken on 150 more mature people to promote brands. But some companies like Liggett-Ducat are still considering how to react to the ministry's crackdown.

"We didn't necessarily think that we were breaking the law," said Liggett-Ducat PR manager Yelena Alexandrova. "It just depends on how unreasonable it gets," she added. "I am under 35. Will I be breaking the law if I wear a T-shirt with a brand on it?"