KUNMING — China’s anti-smoking campaign saw significant progress in 2014, thanks to the issuing of legislation at both the national and local levels.
During a health forum held on Dec 27 in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, experts agreed that the country’s growing emphasis on the rule of law has advanced tobacco control legislation. However, obstacles still block the implementation of the laws and regulations.
In January, a circular issued by authorities required officials to take the lead by not smoking in public.
In November, the Beijing municipal legislature passed an anti-smoking bill aiming to ban smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces as well as on public transportation. It is scheduled to take effect in June 2015.
Also in November, China’s State Council’s legislative affairs office released a draft regulation for public comment, which would ban smoking in indoor public places and outdoor spaces, including schools and hospitals; all forms of tobacco advertising; sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products; and smoking scenes involving minors in film and on TV.
Li Xiaoliang, director of the Pioneers for Health Consultancy Center in Yunnan, said that since the country ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, the Chinese government and grassroots organizations have joined hands to promote the anti-smoking cause.
However, tobacco control legislation still lacks solid public support, since a large number of the country’s smokers and passive smokers are not fully aware of the damage tobacco causes to health and social development, Li said.
As the world’s largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers and another 740 million people exposed to secondhand smoke each year.
Wu Yiqun, executive vice director of ThinkTank, a Beijing-based anti-smoking advocacy group, said the implementation of the anti-smoking regulations contradicts the draft amendment to the Advertisement Law, which is currently under review.
According to the draft, companies will still be able to advertise their products in tobacco shops, which is against the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the draft national anti-smoking legislation, which requires banning all forms of tobacco advertisements, said Wu Yiqun.
“The only motive for advertisement, promotion and sponsorship in the tobacco industry is to sell more products, which spells disaster for public health,” she said.
“Hopefully, the advertisement law will be further modified to ban all tobacco advertisements, promotions and sponsorships,” she added.
Many law enforcers themselves are not fully aware of the harms of smoking, making strict enforcement of the law difficult at times, said Shen Shouwen, professor at Yunnan University in Kunming City.
Shen also suggested that the regulations should be more specific in terms of the punishment and who should enforce the law, and the general public should be better educated about the consequences and health hazards of tobacco.