Experts called for nationwide legislation on a total smoking ban in public spaces following a survey released on Thursday revealing that an overwhelming majority of people support the move.
Nearly 92 percent of respondents of 1,000 surveyed in 10 Chinese cities support a total smoking ban in public areas, a poll by the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control found. The results were released Thursday at a conference in Beijing.
China has huge public support for a nationwide smoking ban, but a timetable to adopt a law has been on the back burner since the State Council released the Regulations on the Control of Smoking in Public Places on its website for public feedback in November 2014, Wu Yiqun, the deputy director from think tank the Research Center for Health Development, told the Global Times.
"The proposed law has been mainly stymied by tobacco industry officials due to the huge economic interests involved," Wu said.
The sector handed over 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) to the State in 2015, up 20.2 percent from the previous year, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration said in 2016.
"Some government officials can be blamed for the postponed smoking ban, as they argue their own department should not be included in the regulations as it would directly damage their own interests," Yang Gonghuan, a professor from Peking Union Medical College, told the Global Times.
Mao Qunan, a spokesperson with China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) said at the meeting that legislation would be just the first step toward a smoking ban. It would also require joint cooperation from other departments to ensure the law is not just "a piece of paper."
Shen Jinjin, a National People's Congress deputies, said at the meeting that he will propose a nationwide smoking ban at the upcoming two sessions, China's annual political meetings, in March.
In the Chinese mainland, 18 cities have enacted local regulations to ban smoking in public spaces.
The world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, China has 316 million smokers, or nearly 30 percent of the total population, a recent official report showed. More than 50 percent of males smoke, while 2.7 percent of females smoke, the Xinhua News Agency reported in January 2016.