BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 07 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:723
  1. Richard Tomlinson
  1. Beijing

    China has no national law banning smoking in public places, but since 1993, local governments have issued rules forbidding smoking in certain venues.

    At the moment 73 cities and 5 provinces have introduced such regulations, and more are expected to follow. Among the venues covered are cinemas, public meeting rooms, indoor sports stadiums, museums, schools, hospitals, post offices, and all public transport. The problem is one of enforcement, which varies greatly, especially away from the big cities.

    Dr Zhang Yifang, secretary general of the Chinese Association on Smoking and Health, said: “There are also other places which should be included in the ban, but which are not because it is very difficult to enforce—namely offices, restaurants, karaoke and entertainment halls, and lifts.”

    Dr Judith Mackay, director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control based in Hong Kong, points to the millions of non-smoking Chinese adults and children still at risk from passive smoke. “According to the recently published third national prevalence survey on smoking in 1996, half of China's adult population are exposed to passive smoking, as defined by the World Health Organisation: 71% at home, 25% at work, and 33% in public places. It is difficult for governments to legislate for behaviour within the home, but these findings … make it clearly the duty of the Chinese government to ban smoking at work and in public places.”

    One in every three cigarettes smoked in the world is smoked in China. According to the 1996 survey, 67% of men (aged over 15), 4.2% of women (over 15), and 9.7% of 15-19 year olds smoke. Over the past decade, the male smoking rate has crept up slowly from 61% in 1984, while the female rate has in fact declined from 7% in 1984. But Dr Zhang warned: “Among 25-29 year old women, the rate is going up.” Fashion conscious urban women are increasingly smoking, especially in the big cities. Dr Zhang said that the rate among teenagers was also rising, although comparative statistics were not available.

    Overall, Chinese people are also starting smoking earlier (age 20 in 1996, compared with age 23 in 1984), and smokers are consuming more cigarettes per day (15 per day in 1996, but 13 in 1984).

    Embedded Image

    Chinese people are starting to smoke at a younger age


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