Health ministry says time to butt out

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-31 08:43

The Ministry of Health yesterday called for new regulations to control the sale of tobacco as the smoking population in China now exceeds 350 million - the most in the world.

New legislation to ban smoking in public would be a key step forward, the ministry said in the newly released 2007 Report on China's Smoking Control.

The report, the nation's first official report on smoke control, was released before today's World No Tobacco Day.

China now has no laws designed specifically to ban smoking in public. The law on tobacco monopolies, which came into effect in 1991, prohibited smoking on public transport and some other areas. However, the law was not strictly enforced.

China is the world's largest tobacco producing and consuming country, accounting for more than a third of the global total on both counts.

The tobacco industry has been the biggest tax source since 1987, which accounted for about 240 billion yuan (US$31.4 billion) of tax revenue in 2005, according to the report.

About 540 million Chinese suffer from passive smoking and more than 100,000 of them die annually from diseases caused by passive smoking, according to the report.

Among passive smoking victims, about 180 million were children younger than 15, the report said. The World Health Organization estimated that about 700 million children worldwide suffered from passive smoking.

People in rural areas were more inclined to fall prey to passive smoking as 54 percent had contact with second-hand smoke, the report said. In urban areas, the number was 49.7 percent.

More than half the population in 20 provinces across China were exposed to passive smoking while the figures in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Jilin, as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region were above 60 percent, the report said.

Homes were found to offer the easiest access to second-hand smoking. This was the finding of a 2002 survey where 82 percent of the respondents agreed, the report said.

The report also revealed that a cigarette can produce more than 4,000 chemical substances when it is lit, including more than 40 carcinogens such as formaldehyde, benzene and arsenic. Second-hand smoking has been identified as an A-level carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a body under WHO.

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