By Jessica Li Lollipops for cigarettes seems like an odd exchange, but Shanghai Children’s Medical Center is hoping that sugar hungry children will help their huffing parents to quit, thereby reducing the number of youth exposed to secondhand smoke.
A special event held to mark the start of this campaign featured interactive games teaching children the risks associated with smoking, and collection boxes for adults to turn in their packs.
This particular effort is just part of a wider anti-smoking crackdown that started in March with a citywide smoking ban. But the ban has not exactly yielded stellar changes – only 66 locations fined for violating tobacco control laws so far.
Still, according to a survey from Fudan University in February last year, more than 90%
of Shanghai residents said they support the smoking ban and believe a comprehensive restriction on smoking in public areas will improve the Shanghai’s image. Local health authorities too insist that spot checks continue on a consistent basis, saying that 72% of public venues follow the anti-smoking rules.
It certainly appears then that politicians and local authorities seem serious about outlawing smoking: Government official and lawyer Li Ming wants smoke alarms to catch offenders, and even proposed that restaurants refrain from providing lighters and ashtrays, unless customers request them.
The issue of smoking, and its strain on China’s already fragile health system, has been more pronounced recently. Recent WHO statistics revealed that over half of China’s men and 2.4% of China’s women are smokers, totaling 301 million smokers. The WHO’s China rep, Michael O’Leary, was quoted as saying that the high prevalence of tobacco consumption in China deserves the same level of concern and attention as a SARS outbreak or a H1N1 outbreak.
This new campaign to keep children informed about the health dangers perhaps hints at a plan for the future when the World Expo comes to a close.
But there’s still a ways to go – the bins at the Shanghai Medical Center, intended to present a visual statement of the effort, remained largely half empty.