Legislation in most countries regulates trade in poisons and highly addictive products, such as narcotics. The statements that (1) tobacco harms health and (2) causes addiction are established as facts in international and national law. Yet in Russia, and in many other countries, there is a contradiction between the open sale of this addictive poison and basic laws, such as those on product safety. Provisions in both the Russian constitution and the criminal code can be interpreted as making the sale of tobacco illegal, setting out severe penalties for those involved. Yet, remarkably, tobacco is treated quite differently from other products. In this paper, we describe the experience so far in seeking to enforce this legislation in Russia. Attempts to persuade the police to enforce the legislation have been unsuccessful, although they accept that there is a prima facie case for action but, in private, express fear of taking it. The case for action is currently being argued before the Russian Supreme Court but this could take many years to reach a conclusion. In the mean time, new legislation on the regulation of tobacco production has been passed by the State Duma, with the support of the tobacco industry, which implicitly assumes that tobacco is a lawful product, thereby creating legal confusion. We argue that the only way to redress this situation is to recognize that tobacco production and sales must be regulated in the same way as any other harmful and addictive substance.