A newly published draft regulation on tobacco control by China’s State Council has been applauded by many who see it as an epoch-making step forward in the country’s anti-smoking drive.
The draft was released by the State Council’s legislative affairs office on Monday for public consultation. It bans all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship, promotion of tobacco products and certain smoking scenes in films and TV shows.
Yang Gonghuan, deputy head of Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said it is the first time China has considered state-level legislation on tobacco control, which has demonstrates the country’s great determination on the issue.
She said: “The draft has clearly listed a wide range of public places where smoking is prohibited, and the scope is much wider than those stipulated in other relevant laws and regulations.”
According to the draft, smoking is banned in all kinds of indoor public places and outdoor space in kindergartens, schools, colleges, women and children’s hospitals, fitness venues, as well as the waiting areas of public transportation.
The new rule also asks cigarette producers to add written and visual health warning signs to cigarette packages.
Xu Zhaorui, director of health education center of Changchun City in Jilin Province, said the exported products by the Chinese cigarette brands have added health warnings on their packages, while such practice has been hardly applied to products sold domestically.
As the world’s largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers and another 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke each year.
In 2003, China signed the FCTC. the convention, which became effective in China in 2006, requires signatories to ban smoking in public areas, reduce tobacco supplies and consumption, ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Wang Qingbin, professor with China University of Political Science and Law, said, the draft regulation in accordance with the FCTC requirements has been long awaited.
The country’s efforts in establishing a national law to ban smoking have been hampered by a set of obstacles, according to Wang.
“The GDP of some cities rely heavily on the cigarette industry, ” he said,”at the same time, the demands for tobacco control vary among different cities. Big cities with a high population density are more eager to ban smoking, while the second and third-tier cities mostly have less incentive on tobacco control.”
“Additionally, the country’s large smoking population has also been adding pressure to the anti-smoking drive,” he said.
Though no national law on smoking control has been established, a dozen Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, have launched local smoking bans.
Wang Ke’an, director of the Beijing-based anti-smoking advocacy group ThinkTank, said, “The local smoking legislation have promoted the establishment of a national ban.”
“The local bans have been met with all kinds of difficulties in terms of enforcement. Once the draft is passed, it will provide strong legal support for the enforcement of the local legislation, ” he said.
Strategies on getting legislation effectively implemented is a big issue for the law enforcement to ponder, experts say.
According to the draft, managers of public places will be directly responsible for preventing people from smoking in the stipulated places, Wang Qingbin said.
Therefore, the government should explore ways to stimulate the public places managers’ anti-smoking initiatives and come up with effective measures to supervise the managers, he said.
Yang Gonghuan said that relevant government departments should form an open and transparent law enforcing mechanism that is monitored by the media and public.
She added that the establishment of a smoking ban is the precondition for tobacco control. It is of a greater importance for the government to heighten public awareness of the harm of smoking.
Gan Quan, official with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said China should raise tobacco tax and the retail price of cigarettes in order to reduce tobacco consumption.
Source: China Daily