Remember that smoking ban most recently imposed upon middle school students? Now word on the street is that it will soon be extended to huffers and puffers over the age of 12. The proposed ban against all smokers, sponsored by prominent American and Chinese private health organizations, is currently being workshopped in Beijing, with officials from our fair city being joined by representatives from Qingdao, Tangshan, Ningbo, Wuxi, Changsha and Luoyang.
Occurring simultaneously is a government-ordained meeting of seven Northern Chinese cities discussing essentially the same thing.
The bill would put an end to the hazards (and hazardous odor!) of secondhand smoke in hair salons, convenience stores and tea rooms all across our great nation—and no doubt lessen the annual financial and human burdens caused by the nasty habit, currently estimated to be 252 billion yuan and 1.1 million lives, respectively. Of these deaths, approximately 100,000 can be attributed to what is referred to in newspeak as “passive smoking,” by virtue of which more than 540 million people are exposed to cigarette smoke every year.
The remaining million deaths are culled from China’s 350 million “active” smokers, who account for the largest tobacco-consuming population in the world, yellowing a cool 2 trillion filters per year.
Keeping in mind the length of time required to impose full smoking bans in the United States (50 years) and Hong Kong (20 years), the date on which we can expect to begin reclaiming full use of our lungs is anybody’s guess. Officially, smoking in hospitals, health administrations and other public health buildings is set to be completely disallowed by next year.
But, as China University of Political Science and Law professor Xie Zhiyong notes, “For smoking bans in public places, legislation comes first, with implementation the key link”. Indeed, staffing seems to be a major issue for public places in China, and it’s difficult to slap a student on the wrist without a teacher on-site.
Adding further insult to injury is the fact that all tobacco companies in China are state-owned and managed. The economies of some small towns, in fact, are almost completely dependent on China’s tobacco industry, which has stated as one of its goals to be the world’s largest tobacco exporter by the end of this year.
The Shanghai surprise? The people in charge of Expo turned down a 200 million RMB sponsorship deal from a tobacco company last July, so it seems that our precious alveoli will be spared, anyway.
Photo from Medindia