Russian kids Smoke themselves into the Grave
In today’s special issue, we argue once again that Russia must be divested of the 2014 Olympic Games. A jaw-dropping recent report in the Moscow Times newspaper highlights the innumerable social problems that plague Russia, problems from which the Olympics is diverting essential resources at the cost of Russian lives.
The mighty MT reports that Dr. Leonid Lazebni, the Russian Surgeon General, announced that Russian children face a “catastrophe” because, in Moscow at least, three out of four boys and two out of three girls smoke cigarettes. This contrasts with an overall smoking rate in the capital city of 24.6%.
These figures are truly shocking, of course, but even more stunning was the Keystone Cops manner in which the utterly clueless Lazebni made his presentation and in which the assembled government officials responded.
First, he did not say a single word about the level of smoking-related disease being experienced by Russians, nor did he discuss statistics outside of Moscow in any detail, confirming once again the destructive parochial attitude that Russians regions, where most of its population dwells, don’t matter.
Second, in response government officials said little about expanding education programs to teach children why they shouldn’t smoke, nor did he call upon Russia’s popular national leaders, Putin and Medvedev, to speak out more against smoking. Instead, in classic neo-Soviet style, all Lazebni could talk about was placing restrictions on sales and advertisements. Because of Russia’s pandemic corruption, such measures are doomed to hopeless failure.
Some of the officials tried to blame, in another pathetic neo-Soviet move, evil foreign conspiracies seeking to do Russia harm. But in fact, as the MT points out, 90% of the traders in the Russian cigarette market are Russian.
One lawmaker called for raising Russia’s excise tax on cigarettes, which is shockingly the lowest in all of Europe. Yet, he did not have a word of criticism for the Putin government that is responsible for setting that tax, nor for the silence of Putin and his KGB cohorts on the issue of smoking, and he ignored the fact that Russia’s pandemic corruption would only mean the rise of a huge black market for cigarettes if such a tax were put in place.
Russia’s inability to grapple with an issue of this kind is readily understandable: With millions of dollars flowing to Sochi to build an Olympic venue from scratch for no good reason, the country simply does not have resources available to forthrightly address the challenge, and it has no tradition of reform and reorganization to help it change policies that have obviously failed.
If Russia spent just a tiny fraction of the time and effort it is directing towards the Sochi games on teen smoking, thousands of Russian lives might be saved. Instead, Russia is consumed with frenzied nationalism just as was the USSR, and seemingly hellbent on the same course of self-destruction.