A member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, submitted a proposal at this year's ongoing session suggesting that a pack of cigarettes should cost at least 10 yuan ($1.4) to deter teenagers from smoking. Beijing Youth Daily commented on Tuesday:
Theoretically it is possible that more teenagers, many of whom are not financially independent and have limited money to spend, would abstain from smoking if cigarettes were priced higher. [Special coverage]
According to a World Health Organization report, the number of youngsters who quit smoking increases about 9.3 percent when the price of cigarettes is raised by 10 percent. According to WHO, a tripling of the excise tax on tobacco worldwide could prevent over 115 million premature deaths by getting current smokers to quit.
China, where inferior cigarettes priced at three or five yuan per pack are widely available, has a lot to do to raise the price of cigarettes. It has raised the excise tax on cigarettes and tobacco to 56 percent, but that is not enough; the excise duty recommended by WHO is 70 percent.
Besides, more could be done to reduce teenage smoking by enforcing the law. The Law on the Protection of Minors stipulates that selling cigarettes to teenagers is strictly forbidden, yet young smokers can always manage to buy what they want from somewhere as a result of weak enforcement of the law.
And a nationwide ban on smoking in public places has yet to be introduced, which would also be a feasible way to reduce teenage smoking rates and prevent nonsmokers from being harmed by secondhand smoke.
Although the National Health and Family Planning Commission pledged to issue a regulation reining in smoking in public places three years ago, only a few cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have imposed a smoke-free ban in public places.