China mulls tougher tobacco controls
The draft, published on the legislative affairs office of the State Council website, pending public consultation, also includes plans to ban certain smoking scenes in films and TV shows.
The draft bans smoking in all kinds of indoor public places and outdoor space in kindergartens, schools, colleges, women and children’s hospitals as well as in fitness venues. Smoking in outdoor space is only allowed in designated smoking areas.
The draft also prohibits selling cigarettes to minors through vending machines.
Civil servants, teachers and medical staff should take the lead in tobacco control, it said, adding teachers and medical workers are not allowed to smoke in front of students or patients.
As the world’s largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers and another 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke each year.
In 2003, China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It requires signatories to “comprehensively ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, but still does not have a specific law regulating smoking in public places.
While the consumption of high-end cigarettes has been largely reduced thanks to China’s anti-corruption drive, the mid-to low-end market has managed to attract even more consumers.
Most people in China don’t take it seriously when there are people smoking in public places. Bernhard Schwartlander, WHO’s representative in China, wrote in an online article that smoking in enclosed public spaces is openly tolerated in hotels, restaurants and offices across Beijing, though the city has a smoke-free rule for public places.
Experts have long attributed the worsening situation to the lack of national legislation and local governments’ heavy reliance on tobacco taxes.
Xu Guihua of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said the rules were long overdue but it is still very important that restaurant owners and hotel managers to have a sense of “tobacco control” and dissuade smokers when they see them.
“After all, law enforcement teams can not cover all public places,” said Xu.