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China considers nationwide smoking ban within one year

2013-12-19 13:54 CNTV Web Editor: Li Yan

A leading health official from Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Office, says China is considering a nationwide smoking ban in public within one year.

Smoking is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. It's still a gesture of friendship to pass out cigarettes at a business banquet or even a wedding.

Many Chinese cities have tried to regulate smoking in restaurants, bars or shops... but the rules mostly ignored.

Many advocates of smoke-free environments complain that local governments rely too heavily on revenue from tobacco sales. A short sighted outlook they say as smoking-related diseases cause more than a million deaths a year... a number that could triple by 2030 if something is not done.

The long-standing debate on tobacco control is a monetary one. Experts warn that rising medical costs and lost productivity resulting from smoking-related illness or death could outweigh the economic benefit derived from strong sales. They say it's time for government to take serious action against smoking.

Gregory Yingnian Tsang, a tobacco control specialist, who has spent his life fighting for a ban on smoke, says increasing the cost of smoking is a solution.

"Just raise tobacco taxes. We make cigarettes more expensive, by doing that, the result is simple, and government gets more money in the pocket to spend. People would purchase less, so farmers, workers and youngsters would be discouraged from smoking and less tragedy happened in the family." said Gregory Yingnian Tsang, Tobacco Control Specialist.

Recent government statistics show that adding a one yuan tax on a pack of cigarettes would increase government revenue by almost eight billion dollars and save 3.4 million lives. Mr. Tsang says the first step is to take tobacco control out of the hands of the tobacco industry.

"Few countries on earth still sell tobacco by the government. So to improve the overall effectiveness of tobacco control, one thing to be done to separate organizations. Make sure that tobacco control is only done by tobacco control only, without at the same time selling tobacco. Because you have things mixed together. The impact of tobacco control practices will be weakened." said Gregory Yingnian Tsang, Tobacco Control Specialist.

Even if a new legislative ban on smoking in public places is passed at next spring's National People's Congress session, some said its implementation is likely to face resistance from the powerful tobacco industry.

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