Seven cities in China, the largest consumer of tobacco worldwide, are taking steps to ban smoking in workplaces and public venues: under current legislation smoking is allowed in certain public places, but experts say enforcement is poor.
The 7 cities that will implement the new ban, to be run as a pilot project under the joint auspices of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease(UNION) are Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenyang, Harbin, Nanchang, Lanzhou and Shenzhen.
Speaking at the launch of the joint project on Friday, Wang Yu, director of China’s CDC told the media that:
“Only with the support of the pilot cities’ municipal governments and legislatures can the people there finally enjoy smoke-free environments.”
Responding to criticism about the current legislation not being well enforced, Wang expalined that:
“This project would create strict legislation to guarantee 100-percent smoke-free public venues and workplaces and figure out a feasible and forceful working mechanism to enforce the smoking ban.”
Xie Zhiyong, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said China should be bolder about controlling smoking and tobacco, given that the risks far outweigh the benefits.
“For smoking bans in public places, legislation comes first, with implementation the key link,” said Xie, explaining that the current partial ban on smoking in public places is failing because the health authorities are responsible for enforcement and they don’t have the staff to do it.
Another problem that Xie sees is a conflict of interest: some local governments rely heavily on tax revenues from their tobacco industry to finance them, and the other is that tobacco companies in China are owned by the state.
For it to be effective, tobacco control needs support from decision makers, the legislators and the media, said Xie.
China is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco: the country is home to some 350 million smokers, and another 540 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, according to official statistics given in China Daily.
The figures also show that every year about 1 million people die from smoking-related deaths in China, with a further 100,000 deaths thought to be due to passive smoking.
B earing this in mind, UNION’s Dr Sinead Jones said:
“The project, if realized, would help save millions of lives through lowering tobacco consumption and reducing secondhand smoking”.
In monetary terms, the Chinese authorities estimate that smoking costs the nation over 252 billion yuan (37 billion US dollars) every year: this sum includes medical costs, fire, and environmental pollution, and is considerably larger than the money the industry brings in via taxes.
Wang said that the project will eventually include the whole of the country, to “protect more people from smoking”.
Source: China Daily.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD