xi's moments

Allowing indoor smoking areas is pragmatic tobacco control measure

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-02 07:09

People smoke at an outdoor designated smoking area on Dongfang Road in Shanghai. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province, has given a green light to setting up indoor smoking areas in public places in a draft of its newly revised smoking control regulation. Beijing News comments:

China has about 350 million smokers, 30 percent of the world's total, and 740 million secondhand smokers. It is therefore necessary for the government to take seriously its duty to control the use of tobacco, especially because the tobacco industry and sales of tobacco products are State-owned in China.

Tobacco use has led to more than 1 million deaths each year in the country, and it is estimated the economic losses caused by tobacco greatly exceed the added value created by the industry.

The former version of the Hangzhou regulation, which calls for a total ban on public smoking, was warmly welcomed as a sign of the local government changing its mindset toward smoking control when it was unveiled in 2010.

Critics say that if the revised smoking control regulation is adopted, it will be a step backward. But the fact is many cities have followed Hangzhou's example in carrying out a total ban on public smoking, but the zero tolerance has existed in name only. Because of the lack of enforcement, smoking in public has not been curbed and the total smoking ban has become a laughingstock.

Hangzhou's proposed revision of its regulation is a move aimed at minimizing the harm done to nonsmokers. It should not be interpreted as acquiescence to public smoking.

The draft regulation of Hangzhou is more practical than the former version. What the government needs to do next is to make a national standard for the indoor smoking areas, which, in many places, are only areas equipped with ashtrays in hallways.

The World Health Organization's report points out even ventilation systems cannot eliminate the harmful particles contained in the smoke exhaled by smokers. Many countries have stipulated that smoking areas must be meters away from public areas, so as to minimize the threat to public health of secondhand smoking.

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