China's grand plan to help 300 million smokers quit

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The Independent Online

Chinese health authorities have launched a major crackdown on smoking in public places in an attempt to curb the 1 million deaths caused by smoking every year in the world's most populous country.

Guidelines posted on the Health Ministry's website, which adds venues such as hotels and restaurants to an existing list of places where smoking is banned, are the latest effort to curb tobacco use in the country with the world's largest number of smokers and where experts say huge revenues from the state-owned tobacco monopoly hinders anti-smoking measures.

Smoking is one of the greatest health threats the country faces, government statistics show. Nearly 30 per cent of adults in China smoke – about 300 million people – a number roughly equal to the entire US population. The guidelines are part of the Health Ministry's regulations on health management in public places.

Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the official Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the new rules were a significant step forward but more needed to be done.

"A higher level of legislation is needed to make this ban more effective," such as dedicated anti-smoking laws at the national or city levels, Dr Yang said.

The older regulations listed venues such as cinemas, concert halls, libraries and shopping malls in which smoking was prohibited. The new list adds hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, hair and beauty salons and other places.

The new regulations call for no-smoking signs to be put up in public places, and require owners or managers of venues considered public places to allocate staff to persuade smokers to give up the habit.

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