Chinese officials have been asked to ‘take the lead’ in complying to the smoking ban in public places that was introduced in 2011 and has been routinely ignored ever since.
A circular from the Communist Party and the State Council says that officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, parks, public transport vehicles or any other public venues where smoking is banned.
The circular also restates that officials are prohibited from using public funds to purchase cigarettes and they cannot smoke or offer cigarettes while on the job.
“Smoking remains a relatively universal phenomenon in public venues. Some officials smoke in public places, which does not only jeopardized the environment and public health, but tarnished the image of Party and government offices and leaders and has a negative influence,” reads the circular.
The sale of tobacco products and advertisements will no longer be allowed in Party and government offices. Prominent notices of smoking bans must be displayed in meeting rooms, reception offices, passageways, cafeterias and rest rooms.
China is the biggest tobacco producer and consumer in the world, home to over 300 million smokers. Over half of the country’s men smoke and more and more women are starting to pick up the habit.
In 2002, China signed the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to curb tobacco supply and consumption, at which point cigarette production was at 1.75 trillion per year in the country. During a WHO assessment report in 2012, however, researchers found that the number had doubled to 2.58 trillion.
Plans to more staunchly enforce the smoking ban and dole out harsher punishments to violators have been introduced in several citifies but have proved to be short-lived and have little effect.
Experts, and everyone, are critical of the government’s current efforts which have so far severely underwhelmed FCTC expectations:
In [WHO’s 2012] report, China was only awarded two of a possible 16 points for its smoking ban in public places, mostly schools and hospitals, while its curb on tobacco advertising won absolutely nothing–and you could still probably get away with smoking in a hospital if you really tried.