Russia has threatened criminal action against tobacco manufacturers after accusing US corporations of perpetrating "nicotine genocide" against the Russian people.
Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief public officer, said he had instructed state lawyers to explore the possibility of criminal prosecution of the tobacco companies operating in Russia. He accused them of causing a health crisis among young Russians by selling cheap tobacco with high tar levels.
Onishchenko's comments could herald another state-sanctioned assault on the private sector as the country has already cut the import of wine and fruit from Moldova and Georgia on the initiative of the public officer.
Russia's USD 12 billion tobacco industry is dominated by three non-Russian companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI). The companies have dismissed the claims, saying they produce only the highest-quality cigarettes in Russia, many of which are imported to European countries. (pi)