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Friday 21st October 2016

China to ban public smoking

12th May 2010

China has decided to ban all public smoking by 2011, as part of an attempt to honour an international treaty it signed five years ago.


The treaty in question is the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been active for about five years now.

Although China ratified the treaty in the same year that it signed, it may be difficult for Beijing to implement the new law, since it is the world's biggest tobacco consumer.

The China National Tobacco Corporation is the largest tobacco company in the world, in terms of the number of cigarettes it sells.

With a monopoly on tobacco production inside China, the huge state-owned enterprise produces about 30% of the world's tobacco.

The Chinese health ministry said that it wanted to prohibit smoking in all indoor public areas, including offices, trains, and buses.

Yang Qing, the senior official of the Chinese health ministry, said that the country had made its pledge to conform with the WHO convention, which calls for countries to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke.

However, since more than a quarter of all Chinese smoke on a daily basis, some Chinese experts are sceptical about the pledge.

Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said that law enforcement capacity for smoking restrictions was not yet in place in China.

Wu Yiqun, deputy director of Thinktank, an group that campaigns against smoking, said she did not think it likely that the regulation would cause people to change their habits.

Many cities in China have already banned public smoking, but people in such cities are not punished if they are caught smoking in public, and establishments have not substantially changed their attitudes toward public smoking.

The reason why smoking is so prevalent in China has to do with its role in Chinese culture.

Tobacco is a gift that Chinese men give for any occasion, and giving it boosts a person's social connections, or 'guanxi.'

'Guanxi' is present in both privileged and underprivileged Chinese social strata, and for males, offering tobacco is considered a key part of doing business, making acquaintances, greeting friends, patching up a fight, or welcoming guests.

Every year, as many as one million Chinese people die from diseases that are directly linked to smoking.

Last year, the WHO reported that many of the countries that signed up for the 2005 convention against public smoking were not enforcing their bans.

Although there is only one tobacco company in China, it produces nearly 1,000 brands, aimed at particular social strata in different regions of the country.

The monopoly faces a growing problem of counterfeit cigarettes, which are made to look like the pricier brands marketed to China's upper and middle class.

When the WHO has called for a loosening of the China National Tobacco Corporation's monopoly, the company has used anti-counterfeiting as an excuse to further strengthen its business.


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