Speaking as the Russian government announces plan to raise duty on alcohol and cigarettes, Alexei Kudrin said that by smoking a pack, “you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates”. “People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” he told the Interfax news agency.
Alcohol and cigarette consumption are already extremely high in Russia, where 65 per cent of men smoke and the average Russian consumes 18 litres of alcoholic beverages per year, mainly vodka, according to official statistics.
Russian duties on cigarettes are among the lowest in Europe, with most brands priced at around 40 roubles (85p) per pack and unfiltered cigarettes selling for much less.
The finance ministry in June announced plans to more than double excise duty on cigarettes over the next three years from 250 roubles (£5.30) per 1,000 filtered cigarettes to 590 roubles (£12.50) in 2013.
The move is likely to be unpopular in the nicotine-addicted nation where a cigarette shortage in the late 1980s and early 1990s incited protests and led then-president Mikhail Gorbachev to appeal for emergency outside shipments.
The state recently imposed a new minimum legal price for vodka, implemented a zero tolerance ban on drink-driving and banned night-time sales of alcohol to curb abuse blamed for the deaths of thousands of Russians every year.