China to Ban Smoking at Indoor Public Places

China, the world’s largest producer of cigarettes and home to the most smokers. is trying again to limit smoking in public in an effort to curb the national habit. From Reuters:

China, which has more than 300 million smokers, will require businesses to display prominent no-smoking signs, forbid vending machines from selling cigarettes and ensure that designated outdoor smoking zones not affect pedestrian traffic, according to a ministry statement reported in Chinese media on Thursday.

Businesses should educate customers about the health hazards of smoking and workers should attempt to stop smokers from lighting up, the ministry said.

The ministry did not state specific penalties — a sign that the new ban might not be rigorously enforced.

China, the world’s largest cigarette producer, has embarked on years of half-hearted campaigns to stub out the habit in some cities. The government previously it would ban smoking in all hospitals and medical facilities from 2011.

People’s Daily Online quoted one expert who felt that the new measures were inadequate, and encouraged a “more aggressive interpretation”:

“The ‘smoking ban’ should be seen in three aspects: no smoking seen or smelled inside public venues; no ads, promotions or sponsorships seen or heard in public areas; and no tobacco sold to or by minors,” said tobacco control expert Yang Gonghuan at a seminar held in Beijing Thursday.

Yang, who is also the deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that “public venues” should include not only hospitals, schools, work places and public transportation, but also hotels and restaurants ….

One safeguarding measure provided by the Five-year Plan is the separation of administrative powers and commercial entities in special industries like the railway and salt, Yang said, adding that such a rule should be applicable to the tobacco sector.

She also said that tobacco control “is of key importance” and “one of the most cost-effective strategies” in achieving the goal of extending the average life expectancy of Chinese people to 74.5 from 73.5 in the next five years.

China Real Time outlined the stakes:

More than 1 million people a year die in China due to tobacco-related illnesses, according to a report, “Tobacco Control and China’s Future,” issued in January by a group of 60 Chinese public-health experts. The report also said health costs related to tobacco accounted for nearly 62 billion yuan, or roughly $9.5 billion, in 2010 and will remain a financial burden if the government doesn’t take greater measures to decrease tobacco use ….

In fact, the new regulations come months after China missed a Jan. 9 deadline to restrict indoor smoking, set when Beijing signed the World Health Organization’s 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2006.

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