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Draft regulations seeks first nationwide ban on smoking at indoor public spaces

25 November, 2014

Zhuang Pinghui

National regulation, if adopted, would be huge step forward to honour pledge to WHO

The government is seeking public opinion on the first nationwide smoking ban in public spaces, which if implemented would be a big step towards honouring an international commitment to reduce tobacco use.

The Ordinance on Restricting Smoking in Public Spaces, released for public consultation yesterday by the State Council, bans smoking at all indoor, and some outdoor, public spaces.

Yang Gonghuan, a professor at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and former director of the National Office of Tobacco Control, welcomed the move.

“I am very pleased with the articles of the ordinance, even if it might be a transitional one to higher-level legislation on a smoking ban in indoor public spaces. Let’s hope these articles will stay when the ordinance is officially issued,” Yang said.

She said China was the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer and consumer, with more than 300 million smokers. Some 740 million people, including 180 million children, are affected by second-hand smoke.

The ordinance, if adopted, would be the closest Beijing has come to meeting its pledge to create a tobacco-free indoor environment under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

China ratified the convention in 2005 but missed the deadline to honour it in 2011.

The draft regulations stop short of full legislation and a tobacco control law has yet to appear on the agenda of the National People’s Congress. But Yang said it would be good enough if the State Council’s ordinance were issued and well implemented.

The draft law requires tobacco manufacturers to print verbal health warnings and graphics that cover at least half the packaging. Such warnings are not required at present.

All kinds of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship would be prohibited, according to the draft, a far cry from the situation today that even allows schools to be named after tobacco companies.

Tobacco control advocates had lobbied the NPC for years without success to pass tobacco-control laws to enable the country to honour its pledge to the WHO anti-smoking convention. Several cities have passed such legislation individually.

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