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Russian Lawmakers Propose Banning Women Under 40 from Smoking

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Russian lawmakers have proposed new legislation that would ban all women under the age of forty from buying tobacco products. The draft law, authored by two Duma deputies from the Communist Party, says allowing women of childbearing age to smoke cigarettes poses a national security threat to Russia. “Female smoking,” the legislation’s explanatory note says, “harms the body’s reproductive system, causing irreparable damage to the genetic stock of the nation.”

Supporters of the law, which has been stuck in a parliamentary committee since June 2014, reason that the health risks posed to children by mothers smoking (such as increased odds of stillbirths, premature birth, cleft palates, and so on) outweigh any civil right to tobacco. The law would apply to all women, not just those who are pregnant. “Female smokers are often unable to carry a fetus to term or even become pregnant in the first place, as smoking kills an egg’s ability to be fertilized,” the legislation argues. The law would also ban the sale of tobacco products to women of any age in the presence of their non-adult children.

Individual vendors caught selling cigarettes illegally to women would face a penalty of up to 5,000 rubles ($80), while businesses could be fined as much as 150,000 rubles ($2,400).

The bill’s sponsors say banning women under forty from smoking is necessary to uphold Article 38 of the Russian Constitution, which charges the state with protecting “maternity, childhood, and the family.” The law also cites Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which entitles motherhood and childhood to “special care and assistance.”

So far, Russians online have mostly ridiculed the law, embracing it sarcastically and admonishing its authors.

We don’t need feminism because we’ve got a project to ban the sale of cigarettes to women under 40. And it’s completely alright! Our uteruses belong to the state!

The Duma is discussing the possibility of banning the sale of cigarettes to women under 40. I can’t even joke about this shit anymore. Fuck.

In early February, Philip Morris announced that Russia’s market for cigarettes contracted 9.2 percent in 2014, thanks mostly to higher taxes and a struggling economy. Despite the overall decline, however, vendors reported a 1,350 percent rise in the sale of papirosy—a cheap, filterless Russian cigarette that was especially popular in the Soviet Union.

As the Duma prepares to review the prohibition of women smokers, deputies will consider another law that would allow small towns to overturn a ban on selling tobacco products within 100 meters (330 feet) of schools.

According to a complaint by business-owners in Kirov, the ban on selling cigarettes near schools fails to appreciate rural economies, where all major shops and facilities are traditionally located side by side. In Kirov, stores reported a loss of 10-30 percent of their profits, often making it impossible to pay the rent, resulting in the closure of 15 different shops.

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