Tougher penalties for re-selling cigarettes to children

#industry news

The bill on tightening responsibility for the re-sale of tobacco and nicotine products to minors by analogy with alcohol was prepared by Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Peter Tolstoy, heads of committees on youth policy, health protection, economic policy Artem Metelev, Badma Bashankaev, Maxim Topilin, etc. It is proposed to amend Article 151 of the Criminal Code (involving a minor in committing antisocial acts). Vedomosti got acquainted with the text of the initiative.

Deputies propose to introduce fines (from 50,000 to 80,000 rubles. or the amount of wages for a period of up to six months) for the repeated sale to minors of tobacco products, nicotine-containing products or raw materials for their production, hookahs, devices for the consumption of nicotine-containing products or raw materials for their production. In addition, it provides for the punishment of such violators with correctional labor for up to one year with deprivation of the right to hold certain positions for up to three years.

After the government lifted the moratorium on inspections of stores selling tobacco and nicotine products, Rospotrebnadzor conducted about 27,500 preventive measures in the fall of 2023, 9,000 of them were control measures. As the authors note in the explanatory note, in more than 90% of cases, open display and demonstration of goods (76% of objects), sale near educational institutions (7.7% of objects) were revealed.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the sale of products to minors remains on the list of the most frequently detected offenses: 26 administrative cases were initiated in the fourth quarter of 2023. The results of inspections conducted by Rospotrebnadzor, as well as the design of consumer packaging and the taste range (for example, "ice banana", "coconut melon", "ice mint", etc.) indicate that the products are aimed at a minor audience, the deputies are sure.

Prohibitive measures alone cannot solve the issue of smoking and selling cigarettes to teenagers, according to Ramil Khabriev, scientific director of the N. A. Semashko National Research Institute of Public Health. "We need positive examples provided by adults, preventive work at school. But those who violate the law and sell such products [to minors], of course, must be punished," he told Vedomosti. "If [deputies], analyzing law enforcement practice, believe that the ban and the existing punishment are not enough, then, apparently, yes [changes are needed]," Khabriev concluded.

Almost 4% of Russian teenagers aged 15-19 years smoke daily, despite the fact that, in principle, the proportion of the daily smoking population in Russia is almost 18%, says Suna Isakova, oncologist at the Sberbank medical company. According to her, the adolescent brain, which is in the process of formation, is able to quickly build connections between cells, which helps them learn new skills more quickly. "According to a similar scheme, they are exposed to smoking addiction. It is known that nicotine can "reprogram" a teenager's brain, making him want even more of it," she points out.

Currently, there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are safer than conventional ones. The latter have been used for quite a long time, therefore, a large amount of knowledge has been accumulated about the effect of nicotine on the human body. Isakova argues that, despite the fact that switching to vaping is considered as a possible way to quit smoking among the adult population, studies show that it usually does not lead to the desired result. Smoking vapes in adolescence is likely to lead to a switch to regular cigarettes, she believes.

The chief physician of the Leader Medicine medical center, pediatrician Yevgeny Timakov, notes that the share of smoking children has not increased over the past few years, because the sale to teenagers is prohibited. According to him, criminal liability for the re-sale of cigarettes is justified: they negatively affect the reproductive health of children, the absorption of vitamins, the functioning of the thyroid gland, and form chronic long-term inflammatory processes in the lungs. 

"In adolescents, addiction occurs faster [than in adults] because the body is more sensitive to microdoses of the same nicotine. They also have a more pronounced dependence at the subconscious level," the doctor explained. Electronic cigarettes are more popular among teenagers now because classic ones are harder to buy, he added.