Russia smokers fuming after balcony ban

[MOSCOW] No more late-night balcony cigarettes, summer barbeques or candle-lit patio dinners: Russians are fuming at the latest fire safety legislation adopted to decrease the number of careless blazes.

From October 1, any "open fire" on balconies of residential houses or hotels is banned, a decree signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

"In 60 per cent of cases, the cause of balcony fires are careless smoking," the emergencies ministry said Friday, adding that it was not waging war on smokers.

The measures, it said, are meant to decrease the number of fires started on balconies - which numbered over 2,000 in 2019.

If a fire starts due to violation of the new ban, the culprit will have to at the very least to pay a fine, and possibly be charged with a crime if it is serious.

Puffing on a cigarette on balconies has remained an option for Russian smokers after the government's previous anti-smoking measures banned smoking in building stairwells and many other public spaces.

Those bans are hardly enforced and many can still be seen smoking in restricted areas, including outside metro stations, on bus stops and train platforms.

Smokers in Moscow, where the entire population lives in apartment blocks, have not been happy.

"This is humiliating," 52-year-old Yulia Volkova-Voroshilova told AFP. "Now only rich people with their own land and house will be able to smoke, and poor people can't do anything."

"You can't make people quit smoking with measures like these," said Natalia Selvestrenko, 40. "I will continue smoking on my balcony. Who is going to see me there?"



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