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Smoke ’em if you got ’em

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Alexei Kudrin is just taking the piss.

“People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” Kudrin said, as quoted by the Interfax news agency. “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates.”

At present, Russian duties on cigarettes are among the lowest in Europe, with most brands priced at around 40 rubles (roughly $1.30) per pack, according to reports. In June, Russia’s Finance Ministry announced plans that could effectively raise the price to 590 rubles ($19.20) by 2013. Given that 65 percent of the nation’s men smoke cigarettes and the average Russian consumes 19 liters of alcohol (mostly vodka) each year, the price increase is likely to be unpopular.