Anti-tobacco advocates welcomed a new draft regulation of the national smoking control for public places, but said it could still be strengthened.
The draft was published on Nov 24 on the website of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, pending public consultation.
The draft, made by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, would ban smoking in public places. It would also ban all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products, as well as certain smoking scenes in films and TV shows.
“It’s long awaited and in line with the international convention except for several issues,” said Gan Quan, China director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, which is committed to smoking control worldwide.
The draft stipulates that a graphic warning on cigarette packages should cover at least half of the package space.
“The coming regulation should aim higher, considering that many countries have already put into practice warnings that are larger than 85 percent of the cigarette package space,” Gan said.
In 2012, Australia introduced the world’s toughest tobacco packaging warning messages, with all marketing and branding items removed from the packages and replaced with warnings.
However, Xu Guihua, deputy director of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said the draft regulation is still a major improvement, considering that no graphic warning labels now appear on packaging.
“It’s just a first step for the commission to hand in the draft, and I am worried if it will finally be passed and enforced,” she said, indicating that the tobacco industry might try to undermine the proposed legislation.
China has more than 300 million smokers, and 740 million other people are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. Tobacco products are produced under a State monopoly, which provides a large tax contribution.
Speaking highly of the ban on cigarette sales to minors, Gan pointed to a lack of a ban on tobacco retailers near schools.
Xu agreed and called for “enhanced protection for children from tobacco products and smoking.”
The draft bans smoking in all types of indoor public places and outdoor spaces, from kindergartens, schools and colleges to women’s and children’s hospitals and fitness venues.
Civil servants, teachers and medical staff should take the lead in tobacco control, it says, adding that teachers and medical workers would not be allowed to smoke in front of students or patients.