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China's 300 million smokers face smoking ban in indoor public places

March 24, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty…)

It can't be easy to persuade 300 million people to stop smoking. But China, the biggest producer and consumer of tobacco products, plans to take a step toward that goal May 1 with a ban on smoking in indoor public places.

The act would prohibit smoking inside places such as movie theaters, shopping malls, libraries and other places, though not workplaces. Anti-smoking signs in these areas also would be on display. This Reuters story, though, says China has been here before:

"In 2008, Beijing formally pledged to restrict smoking in most public venues in the city, including government offices and public transport, but most of these venues remain choked with smoke and non-smoking signs are routinely ignored."

Every day, tobacco-related illnesses kill about 3,000 of the 53% of men and 2% of women who smoke in China. Some say change is slow in coming, and education about health hazards isn't widespread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a 2010 survey of households says less than a quarter of adults believe that smoking caused strokes, heart attacks and lung cancer; and a quarter believe exposure to smoke caused those illnesses in children.

And this snippet from a China Daily story talks about seeing officials and party members lighting up outside recent meetings.

"At the Beijing Conference Center, some of the [Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference] members would take a walk to a nearby sitting area -- where a no-smoking sign hung on the wall -- to smoke. They'd soon be encircled by a group of journalists, who had to ignore the fumes while taking the opportunity to ask some questions."

Sounds like the new ban could be tough on everybody.

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