Woman smoking cigarette
Smokers in Russia are to be forced outdoors (Reuters)

A law banning smoking in public places and restricting tobacco advertising has come into force in Russia, where around 40% of the population are smokers.

Smoking will be banned at workplaces, housing block stairwells, buses and within 15 metres of airports, as well as in schools, universities, museums, sports facilities and hospitals.

In 2014, the ban will be extended to restaurants, bars, ships and trains.

The legislation was signed off by President Vladimir Putin in February as part of a plan to improve public health, raise life expectancy and promote economic growth.

Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, said almost 400,000 Russians died from smoking-related diseases last year.

But analysts say the law is nothing new to Russia, stressing that what is important is how it is applied.

"This law is fine, it complies with the framework convention," said Nikolai Gerasimenko, a former government health official. "The most important thing for now is its application."

The legislation will also restrict cigarette sales and ban advertising and sponsorship of events by tobacco companies.

Price increases are also likely, with minimum pricing set to come in next January

From 1 June 2014, all cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, markets, shopping centres and long-distance journeys on ships and trains will become smoke free.

The sale of tobacco will be restricted at street kiosks and minimum prices will be set for cigarettes.

The biggest challenge to the smoking culture will come the following year, with a ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants and hotels, and on tobacco sales at street kiosks.

Moscow resident Alexander said: "I plan to quit smoking and hope this will help."

But others disagreed, saying the law infringes on people's freedoms.

"Our country is not ready for this law," said legal expert Mikhail Barshchevskys. "This is not a law about fighting smoking. It's a law on genocide against smokers."

He said fines ranging from 500 to 1500 roubles (£10-£33) could lead to police taking bribes.

Russians are among the heaviest smokers in the world, with the four in ten figure - which includes children - comparing to 27% in the United States and 30% in France, according to the World Health Organisation.

Life expectancy in Russia is is 69, against 79 in the United States and 82 in France, according to the World Bank.