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Hangzhou Hammers Teenage Smoking

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A comprehensive draft law aims to prevent smoking from becoming a bad habit for teenagers in Hangzhou.

Under the draft, anyone caught selling cigarettes to juveniles will be fined up to 2,000 yuan (US$294).

Some young smokers and tobacco sellers, however, view the draft as ineffective.

Lan Yuhong, a 22-year-old senior at the Beijing Sports University who has smoked for five years, said his first cigarette was stolen from his dad.

"Most of my smoking friends got cigarettes from their families. Can they ban smoking at home?" Lan asked.

The draft law also stipulates that tobacco sellers have the power to ask consumers for identification.

But Li Huayu, a tobacco-seller in Beijing, questioned whether he should refuse a boy who is buying a pack of cigarettes for his father.

The draft law in Hangzhou comes as the city faces a rapid increase in smoking rates.

In 2005, the average resident in Hangzhou consumed 10 cartons of cigarettes; in 2006, the number climbed to 11 cartons; and in 2007, more than 12 cartons was the norm, according to statistics from Hangzhou's health bureau.

The draft also bans smoking in enclosed public places.

Shanghai, like many other large cities, has also introduced a similar draft law to ban smoking in most public places and impose fines on noncompliant establishments.

Hangzhou's draft law, as well as the nation's current anti-tobacco campaigns, are moves in the right direction, say many experts.

"Hangzhou is setting a good example with its anti-smoking campaign," said Zhang Jin, an official from the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

Zhi Xiuyi, a professor and a director at Beijing Lung Cancer Center, said the draft helps prevent young people from getting access to tobacco-related products.

"But is it enough? Teachers, doctors, government officials and TV and film stars should not smoke in public because they set an example for the young," Zhi said.

More than 300 million people in China smoke. About 54 million become second-hand smokers, including 18 million young people younger than 15. The figures were taken from a report called 2009 Tobacco Control in China, released by a research center for health development in August this year.

In 2008, among the 130 million teens from the ages of 13 to 18, about 15 million smoked more than 100 cigarettes and another 40 million teens smoked less than 100 cigarettes, according to the latest figures from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 600,000 people died of lung cancer in 2008 across the country, an estimated one million more died of tobacco-related diseases. If no measures are taken, about 100 million will die from smoking-related diseases by 2050, the report said.

(China Daily September 1, 2009)

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