By Stuart Williams, AFP
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning smoking in public places in Russia from June, a cornerstone of the government’s bid to improve public health in the nicotine-addicted country, the Kremlin said Monday. The move follows similar anti-smoking legislation adopted in the last years by several EU states, but will require a major lifestyle change for Russians long used to smoking almost anywhere they liked. The law, which will take effect in two stages, makes smoking illegal in restaurants, cafes, hotels, trains and a host of other places. From June 1, 2013, it will be illegal to smoke in Russia on municipal transport, at railway stations, in lifts and bus stations, administrative buildings as well as any place of education or health. From June 1, 2014, the ban will be stepped up to include ships, long-distance trains, train platforms, hotels, cafes and restaurants, places where Russians still smoke plentifully. Many Russians currently get through long-distance train journeys by smoking at the end of carriages where smoking is allowed despite being banned in compartments. Very few restaurants and cafes are completely non-smoking, sometimes offering, at best, a smoking area and nonsmoking area that is sometimes tucked away in an unappealing area at the back.