China introduces a smoking ban.
More than a million Chinese die each year from smoking related diseases, according to the China Centre for Disease Control. China has the world’s most serious smoking problem so China has banned smoking in public places in an attempt to placate the World Health Organization, however, there are no penalties for those who flout the rules.
The country’s 300 million smokers are now banned from smoking in public places indoors, such as hotels, restaurants and bars. However, smoking in the office is still allowed.
The ban appears to have come in response to pressure from the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO), which castigated China for failing to comply with a global anti-tobacco treaty. The WHO has said China’s decision to finally implement a ban is a “groundbreaking” move.
However, barely any observers believe the ban will be enforced, and there are no penalties for breaking the rules. So ingrained is the culture of smoking in China, where a pack of cigarettes costs as little as five yuan (50p), that Olympic athletes have fronted cigarette advertising campaigns and two-thirds of doctors and nurses smoke. Even the Ministry of Health has admitted it was unable to ban smoking in its offices.
Critics have pointed out that the Chinese government, which owns huge cigarette manufacturing monopolies and collects huge revenues from tobacco taxes, has little incentive to cut the number of smokers.
“Smokers cannot break away from their old habit at once,” said Wang Zhenrong, deputy director of the Sichuan department of Health.
“We have made the law first, and then we can educate the people to raise awareness. To some extent, education is more important than law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, a survey last year found that fewer than a quarter of Chinese adults had any idea that smoking can cause lung cancer, strokes and heart disease.