Smoke-free, waste-free provincial 'two sessions'

Updated: 2014-01-21 15:42

BEIJING - Non-smokers at the current provincial "two sessions" will not be bothered by cigarette smoke, following a nationwide ban on officials smoking in public.

There are no ashtrays at venues; eye catching "no smoking" signs adorn walls and pillars; smokers huddle together in designate smoking areas to light up.

"No one dares to smoke at the venue. It's very different to the past, when even the host of group discussions puffed non-stop during meetings," Cheng Liu'en, a Beijing political advisor, said at the Second Session of the 12th Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the city's political advisory body.

From January, all Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have convened or will convene annual sessions of their legislatures and political advisory bodies, the first since a circular in December required all officials to take the lead by not smoking in public.

Tobacco has been a burning issue at both provincial and national political meetings. China signed the WHO convention on tobacco control in 2003, and promised a ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces by 2011 but implementation has been poor.

At the venues of the two sessions in Beijing, deputies and political advisors could easily be spotted in doorways and corridors, smoking and chatting. On Thursday, Xinhua reporters saw workers smoking at the press center for the legislative session of Beijing.

"With the most smokers in the world, banning smoking in public areas was never going to be easy in China," said Yang Gonghuan, former director of tobacco control at the Chinese center for disease control and prevention.

China has more than 300 million smokers who regularly expose the 740 million non-smokers to second-hand smoke.

Yang advised organizers set up outdoor smoking areas. "An designated outdoor smoking place assures smokers' rights without affecting health of non-smokers," she said.

Frugality maintained

Apart from the smoking ban, the provincial "two sessions" have adopted a frugal, people-friendly style following national campaigns against extravagance and formalism.

Floral displays, red carpets and banners were nowhere to be seen and participants have to share paper copies of documents or find them online, to cut waste.

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