Just a year after being implemented, anti-smoking advocates are hailing Beijing’s smoking ban in public places to be such a success that a nationwide ban is being proposed.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission has submitted a draft for a national ban that would prohibit smokers from lighting up in restaurants, bars, schools and hospitals, similar to anti-smoking regulations in Beijing.
Backing this proposal is widespread public support. A survey of 600 Beijing residents conducted by the Chinese Association of Tobacco Control found that an overwhelming 93 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the smoking ban.
As well, the Beijing smoking ban has been found to be effective in improving conditions. Smoking was only found at 14 percent of Beijing bars, compared to 90 percent before the ban was implemented.
However, critics say it doesn’t go far enough, noting it still gives establishments the option of setting up segregated smoking areas. “That’s like setting aside a peeing area in a swimming pool.”“That’s like setting aside a peeing area in a swimming pool,” said Cui Xiaobo, deputy director of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association.
“It would be a major setback for national smoking control if the law came out that way, because it would set a negative example for stricter regional anti-smoking legislation,” he said.
Other anti-smoking measures taken by China include last year’s cigarette tax hike, credited for lowering cigarette sales by three percent.
With over half of all men in China estimated to be smokers, cigarette use in China has been blamed for a growing epidemic of smoking-related health problems. A medical study published in the Lancet medical journal suggests that up to a third of all Chinese men will die from smoking unless they immediately quit.
More than 1 million people in China die every year from tobacco-related illnesses.