Chinese doctors will join the country's anti-smoking campaign and become role models for the country's 350 million smokers under a recent initiative launched in Beijing by the Ministry of Health, China Medical Board (CMB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The five-year-long China Medical Tobacco Initiative, designed exclusively for Chinese medical professionals, is aimed at building smoke-free campuses and smoke-free hospitals, promoting tobacco control in medical education and improving hospital services for those wanting to quit.
The ultimate goal of the program is to create a "smoke free China", says CMB President Professor Lincoln Chen.
International evidence shows that the medical profession is a critical and powerful force in tobacco control. In China, however, studies show more than 50 percent of male doctors smoke.
Smoking by doctors not only goes against their "health ambassador" image, but also affects their credibility when they attempt to help patients, says Professor Chen.
Medical professionals, universities and institutions are essential to a campaign aimed at mass behavioral change for the reduction and ultimately the elimination of smoking in China, as in all societies, he adds.
The program, funded by the Gates Foundation, will be executed by CMB working closely with 13 medical universities and their affiliated hospitals in the country.
Under it, all medical universities pledge to exercise the social responsibility of medical schools to safeguard public health; faculty and students undertake not to smoke, not persuade others to smoke and not give cigarettes as presents; and all medical campuses and affiliated hospitals strive to become entirely smoke free.
Tobacco control will be built into the medical-education curriculum and research encouraged.
China is the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer. Currently, it has 350 million smokers, plus 450 million people exposed to second-hand smoke.
Each year, 1 million deaths are caused by smoking-related diseases, according to the Ministry of Health. The Chinese government has signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and from January 2011 will completely ban smoking in all indoor public areas, indoor work sites, public transportation and all outdoor public facilities.