China: Smoking No Longer Allowed By End 2014

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 9, 2014 4:03 PM EST

By end of 2014, China will no longer tolerate smoking in public places and the ban will be strictly imposed nationwide.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said Tuesday curbing the smoking habit is one of China's top priorities this year.

Reuters.
Every year around 1 million people in China die due to heavy use of tobacco.

"Compared to the damage to health that smoking causes, tobacco's economic benefits are trivial," Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the commission, told a news conference.

Based on findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, while China's smoking rate dropped from 30 percent to 24 percent in 2012, it has recorded more than 100 million smokers that year compared to some 30 years ago.

In 1980, China had only 182 million smokers. In 2012, these surged to 282 million. At least 28.1 percent are more than 15 years old.

The unbalanced scenario was due to the resistance hurled toward the government by China's tobacco industry. To date, tobacco manufacturers continued to defy regulations to increase cigarette prices and place health warnings on cigarette packs.

Such resistance has thwarted promulgations placed by local governments. In Beijing, despite the presence of no smoking signs, the habit still continues.

Lousy enforcement is also a factor for China's continued growing number of smokers.

"The progress on reducing smoking prevalence is slower than population growth," Christopher Murray, professor from the University of Washington in Seattle, told Bloomberg. "We're making progress but we haven't driven down the number of smokers so the market continues to grow."

Globally, there are now one billion smokers, according to the study, with more people smoking now than in 1980, at 721 million.

Apart from China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Russia were the other countries that contribute to the growing number of smokers worldwide.

The greatest health risks are likely to occur "in countries with high prevalence and high consumption," the study said. They were identified as China, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Korea, the Philippines, Uruguay, Switzerland and Russia.

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(Photo: Reuters. / )
Every year around 1 million people in China die due to heavy use of tobacco.
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