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Tobacco Control Should Start with Government Employees

China's government employees should be banned from offering or receiving cigarettes on social occasions as a first step towards the country's goal to minimize the harm of tobacco on people's health.

"Government departments and their employees are responsible for taking the lead in China's tobacco control," said Yan Aoshuang, a deputy to the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) from Beijing.

Yan said government employees should not be allowed to accept cigarettes for free or at discounted prices from tobacco companies.

"Besides, all government offices should ban smoking in the workplace to ensure a smoking-free environment," she said on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session.

Yan said the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and Ministry of Culture should draft regulations to ban disguised tobacco adverts and scenes of smoking in films or TV plays.

"Film producers and cinemas should play anti-smoking adverts during intervals, and all TVs should air these adverts for free at prime time," she said.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis last October, a latest move toward a smoking-free Olympic Games in August.

In a regional ban enacted in 1995, the city put hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, banks, shops and all means of public transport as smoking-free areas.

Shao Yiming, a specialist on the prevention of AIDS and venereal diseases, has proposed non-smoking areas at all Chinese hotels, restaurants and other public facilities.

China should also impose higher taxes on tobacco to reduce consumption and encourage insurance companies to offer medical insurance policies covering abstinence treatment, said Shao, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in his proposal to the top advisory session.

The Chinese are among the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of 350 million. Ministry of Health said smoking causes 1 million deaths a year in China.

(Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2008)

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