China's cigarette production increased 39 percent in the past 11 years despite the nation signing a World Health Organization agreement to curb tobacco in 2003.
In that time it made 25 trillion cigarettes, China National Radio said yesterday, enough to circle the Earth 52,496 times if laid end to end (a distance of 2.1 billion kilometers).
As the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers. Every year, more than 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases, according to the Chinese Disease Control and Prevention Center.
The government signed the Convention on Tobacco Control in November 2003, vowing to reduce tobacco use. But challenges remain despite years of anti-tobacco efforts.
Xu Guihua, deputy director of the Chinese Tobacco Control Association, isn't optimistic about the nation's anti-smoking efforts, CNR reported.
"Why it is hard to control tobacco is because of corruption," Xu said, "Some officials who should have implemented the campaign used government funds to buy and consume cigarettes."
Wu Ming, a Chinese political adviser and assistant director of Peking University's Health Science Center, also blamed official inaction.
"It has been proved in many countries that printing pictures such as black lung and rotten teeth on cigarette packets can effectively warn and prevent smokers. But our authorities are reluctant to do this," Wu told CNR. "We just added a sentence in small letters — Smoking is bad for your health."
The National Statistics Bureau said that China produced about 2.6 trillion cigarettes last year, up from 1.9 trillion in 2004.
Factories in Beijing were the most productive, CNR reported, making about 7.7 billion cigarettes, a rise of 62 percent from 2004 to 2013.
The capital is imposing a new regulation from today, the country's toughest to date, which bans smoking in all indoor public areas including workplaces restaurants, hotels and hospitals.
Yesterday, World No Tobacco Day, the WHO recognized its efforts.
"We applauded Beijing for its strong and determined leadership in protecting the health of its people by making public places smoke-free. We are delighted to be formally recognizing the Beijing government with a WHO World No Tobacco Day Award," said Shin Young-soo, regional director of the UN organization's Western Pacific office.
The Beijing ban also covers public transport, including airports, railway stations and bus stops. Beijing Capital International Airport said it was closing the 14 smoking rooms in its three terminals.
However, it said that there would now be 17 smoking areas outside, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
The law also bans smoking in outdoor areas around kindergartens, schools, hospitals, sports venues and at cultural relic sites.
Individual offenders face a 200 yuan (U.S.$32.26) penalty while business operators who fail to enact the ban can be fined up to 10,000 yuan and there is the possibly that they could also lose their licenses.