16 january 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with Viktor Ivanov, Head of the Federal Drug Control Service

A ban on the sale of smoking mixtures has been discussed. Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to prevent these mixtures from being disguised as licensed products.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: As you know, we have recently seen the widespread sale of so-called smoking mixtures which has been causing serious damage to people's health, especially to young people. It has quite rightly caused public criticism.

The government resolution signed on December 31, on New Year's Eve, equates smoking blends to narcotics. The first thing we should discuss today is how the government resolution will be implemented and how to do away with this scourge.

Second, we have many enterprising people who think mainly about personal gain and do not think about the consequences of their actions. So, we should see to it that no one be able to stick new labels on the goods they have been selling before, add something insubstantial to enable them to continue doing what they have been doing up until now. How can we protect people from such practices in the future?

Viktor Ivanov: Mr Putin, this is a very important resolution because these smoking blends have become quite widespread. In fact these are herbal mixtures which contain narcotic alkaloids called salvinorin A and GWH 018 which produces the narcotic effect proper. I must say that the problem is not confined to Russia, it is a worldwide problem.

Much of the production of smoking mixtures is located in European countries, but unfortunately they are making their way into Russia too. The resolution has enabled us to criminalise the sale of these substances along with other drugs.

Vladimir Putin: What sanctions arise from this?

Viktor Ivanov: The same sanctions as for marijuana, heroine, cocaine and so on. They would depend on and be qualified in accordance with the amount of the substance sold. I think it would also normalise the situation on the Internet, because the Internet carries a lot of advertising of these smoking blends. Now advertisers and suppliers can also be prosecuted.

I have signed an executive order to all the regional bodies to start tracking down the illicit sale of these smoking blends all over the country.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Now for the second part of my question, that is, how to prevent the vendors from just changing the labels or faking some other mixtures that can be purveyed legally. What should be done to prevent that from happening?

Vikor Ivanov: Operational detective work is conducted with this end in mind.

Vladimir Putin: Do you have the technical facilities for that? Laboratories and the like?

Viktor Ivanov: Yes, of course. We use so-called spectrographs for chemical analysis. Of course we could do with more government assistance in providing our labs with the equipment to carry out the necessary tests quickly in any part of the Russian Federation. We have such facilities, but we would like to have more.

Vladimir Putin: That is what I was going to discuss with you because we have to draw a clear distinction: it is one thing to ban something and it is another to react to the threat on the street promptly and in a competent manner.

Let us discuss it in more detail. I would like to know the amount of additional resources you need to pursue this work effectively in terms of both organisation and technical facilities.