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Tobacco control a tough task

China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-26 07:37

ON MONDAY, CHINA'S CABINET PUBLISHED draft regulations for a smoking ban in all indoor public venues to solicit public opinions. The first national administrative rule of its kind, the draft points to more attention on tobacco control from the top authorities.

With more than 300 million smokers and 28.1 percent of its population aged above 15 addicted to cigarettes, China faces a tough challenge to control tobacco use. It has failed to do a good job in the past decade since it ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.

Only 13 cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, have implemented local administrative regulations banning smoking in indoor public venues since 2008.

For the health of the nation's 740 million non-smokers who have long been exposed to secondhand smoke and also to reduce the rate of diseases caused by smoking, national regulations to ban smoking in indoor public places have long been overdue.

It won't be long before a national ban on smoking in indoor public places is adopted and takes effect. But it is one thing to have such regulations; it is another to ensure that there is no smoking in such spaces.

In all the cities that have already banned smoking in public venues, it is still very difficult to prohibit smoking in places such as restaurants since the owners do not want to offend their customers. Unless there is opposition from non-smokers, there is almost no enforcement of the regulations. It will be even more difficult to ban smoking in outdoor venues the regulations designate as non-smoking areas.

It is just wishful thinking to expect that all smokers who violate the ban will be duly punished, as it will be too costly to effectively police it.

It is also unrealistic to expect all smokers to refrain from smoking when they see a no-smoking sign. Very few Chinese smokers have developed the awareness that smoking in the presence of non-smokers constitutes an infringement on the right of non-smokers not to be made secondhand smokers against their will.

However, when adopted, a national smoking ban will have a positive impact on the campaign against tobacco. At least non-smokers will be provided with a weapon to protect their right not to be placed in harm's way against their will. They can tell a smoker not to smoke in public venues and can sue those who violate the law if they want.


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