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Plan to curb tobacco use applauded

Updated: 2013-01-04 03:31
By SHAN JUAN ( China Daily)

Health-savvy lawmakers hailed the top legislature's plan to make the first national law on tobacco and smoking control, although they expressed concerns over how it will be enforced.

The response came after the Education, Science, Culture and Health Committee of the National People's Congress released a report last week saying: "It is quite necessary to enact laws to control the dangers of tobacco."

Such a law should be added into future legislation plans after proper preparation, said the report, which was adopted at Friday's closing session of a bimonthly meeting of the NPC Standing Committee.

Calling the move "progress", Gu Jin, a leading cancer specialist at Beijing Cancer Hospital and an NPC deputy, said China needs a national law to advance the country's tobacco and smoking control and to protect public health.

Some provinces and cities have enacted local laws and regulations to fight smoking, but "enforcement was far from good", he said, adding that he had submitted at least three bills on drafting a national law.

During the NPC's plenary session in March, about 90 NPC deputies submitted three bills on making a law on the prevention and control of tobacco hazards, according to the report by Education, Science, Culture and Health Committee.

Also, 139 deputies put forward another four bills calling for national legislation banning smoking at public places, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The committee urged that central authorities in charge of the issue carefully study the bills and carry out related research and investigations related to the drafting of the law, the report said.

China has more than 300 million smokers, and more than 1 million die from smoking-related diseases each year, according to the Ministry of Health.

About 740 million non-smokers were victims of secondhand smoke.

"Ministries like health and education have been quite actively promoting tobacco and smoking control, but other government agencies were not that aggressive," Gu said.

A recent government plan to control tobacco from 2012-15 was derided as weak by anti-tobacco campaigners.

The plan was issued in December by eight government agencies, including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Finance and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

Ma Li, another NPC deputy, said the plan expected a national anti-tobacco/smoking law in three years.

"I hope the latest NPC initiative will help accelerate that process," she said, adding that a consensus about the legislation has already been reached.

Gu said the national law could start with a specific clause that bans smoking in public places.

But he also conceded that even if the law is passed, enforcement will be an issue.

He suggested higher penalties be handed down to law violators to help in its implementation.

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