Last year, life expectancy here was 66.5 years, according to estimates by the CIA World Factbook - 60.1 for men and 73.2 for women - compared with 78.5 years in the United States and 79.8 in the European Union. More people are dying than are being born. Russians bear a staggering load of risk factors for disease, with 60 percent of men smoking and each citizen consuming, on average, more than four gallons of pure alcohol a year. Half the population is overweight.
Two big steps are in the works to change some of the dynamics. Russia's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill forbidding smoking in public places, which the upper house approved Wednesday and is expected to be signed quickly by Putin.
And a law that went into effect Jan. 1 has designated beer as an alcoholic beverage instead of a food, prohibiting its sale in ubiquitous street-corner kiosks.
But advocates for better health, leading to longer lives, say Russia needs to do far more.
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