President Vladimir Putin has urged the health and finance ministries to devise a scheme of channeling a portion of excises collected on tobacco products to the healthcare sector.
The idea was proposed by Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova and Astrakhan Region Governor Alexander Zhilkin at a meeting of the State Council presidium, an Interfax correspondent reported.
"This is something to be discussed with the Finance Ministry. You know how the Finance Ministry looks at this. We have many very important things to do here in Russia. Channeling taxes to some specific goal would be a very unusual thing to do. This is done in some countries, but not too often," Putin said.
"Although we should give this some consideration," Putin said.
Skvortsova said this would be extremely useful for the sector of health services that are provided without charge.
"Excises should be handled with care. I know about the government's plans to raise the excises step-by-step. But this process must be gradual, not abrupt. No surprise moves can be tolerated in this sphere," Putin said.
"We still remember how the Soviet-era struggle against alcohol consumption turned out. People switched to home-brew and began drinking denaturated alcohol. That simple," the president said.
"Not only bans, including financial, but also the promotion of sports and healthy lifestyles should be used here. It's a hard job which involves a lot of effort, financial resources, time, persistence and creativity. Only in this way can we achieve a positive and long-lasting effect," Putin said.
He said again that the idea of using revenue from tobacco excises for the needs of healthcare should be handled very carefully.
"It's one thing if you manage to come to terms with the economic ministers, especially the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet, and receive additional funding. But it's an absolutely different thing if you get the excises authorized but the general programs are cut," he said.
"Then, we'll better do without excises," Skvortsova told Putin.
Alexander Zhilkin heads the working group that prepared a report for the State Council on the constituent regions' work to improve the quality of health services and make them more easily accessible.
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