As many as 540 million Chinese are exposed to second-hand smoke
(SHS), of which 180 million are under the age of 15, says a
national tobacco control report released yesterday.
Women and children are most vulnerable to SHS with the smoking
rate among men reaching 57 percent. What's worse, a whopping 90
percent of the women are exposed to SHS at home.
The number of smokers in China has reached about 350 million,
the highest in the world. And about 100,000 of the 1 million
Chinese who die due to smoking-related diseases each year are
passive smokers, says the report.
Prepared by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the report was
presented at a tobacco control conference in Beijing two days
before this year's World No-Tobacco Day, whose theme is to create a
This is the second annual report released by the country under
the guidelines of the World Health Organization's Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which was adopted by the 56th
World Health Assembly in May 2003.
China signed the Convention in November 2003 and approved it in
August 2005. The FCTC officially came into force on January 9,
There is no safe level of exposure to SHS, said Yang Gonghuan,
deputy director of China's Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and a top expert on smoking control.
"That's why legislation is so important for creating a
smoke-free environment," said Jiang Yuan, a researcher with CDC's
tobacco control office.
Susan V. Lawrence, regional head of Campaign for Tobacco-Free
Kids, a US-based non-profit organization, agrees. Creating
smoke-free zones cannot save those who suffer because of SHS, nor
can it build a truly smoke-free environment for all.
With the public becoming increasingly aware of the problem,
Chinese leaders are now thinking of creating a totally smoke-free
environment, a view widely shared by the world community, Lawrence
Beijing has been in the forefront of the fight against smoking.
This time too it has made a promise: to make the 2008 Olympics a
"smoke-free Games". In late April, the municipal government issued
a notice, ordering all Olympic-designated restaurants and seven
other public places to be made smoke-free zones. It urged all
restaurants to follow the example.
But given the huge number of smokers the capital has, the
municipal government has allowed the restaurants to have smoking
Later next month, the FCTC will hold a series of discussions on
how to more specifically address the problem of tobacco control. An
FCTC revised principle states: "Effective measures to provide
protection from exposure to tobacco smoke require the total
elimination of smoking and tobacco smoke in a particular space or
environment in order to create a 100 percent smoke-free
But despite the government's recent initiatives, China still
faces challenges, especially in ensuring that women and minors are
safe from SHS.
A recent study covering about 130 neighborhoods in Beijing's
Dongcheng District found tobacco vendors within walking distance of
98 percent of primary and middle schools, said Feng Ailan, an
expert with the Teenage Tobacco Control Committee of China Tobacco
There is not one, but six tobacco vendors "just across" the
street from a foreign language primary school near the MOH, said
Damon Moglen, vice-president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free
The government's smoke-control schemes have seen "smart"
responses from domestic tobacco companies. Zhonghua, for example,
carries different warning labels for packs sold in China and
Australia. The strong graphic warning labels on Zhonghua packets
sold in Australia are much bigger than those available in China.
This prompted Lawrence to say: Does this mean the tobacco company
"cares more about Australians?"
From January 2009, it will become mandatory for all Chinese
tobacco firms to adhere to FCTC regulations that say warning labels
have to be at least one-third of the size of a cigarette
(China Daily May 30, 2007)