Can Chinese officials resist the urge to light up after sitting hours in packed meeting rooms? The upcoming annual meetings of local legislatures and Communist Party committees across the country will hold the answer for the effectiveness of the Party's latest drive to correct the behaviour of its officials.
Officials in many cities starting early with such meetings are already feeling the pinch from the new rule, which bans officials from lighting up while on duty, or in their own offices.
Nanchang, Lanzhou and Shinan District in Qingdao have all banned smoking at their plenums in keeping with the joint notice by the State Council and the Party's Central Committee, published on December 29. It also bans public servants from smoking in schools, hospitals, sports venues, on public transport and any other smoking-free venues.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that not a single ashtray was seen in the meeting rooms and hotels where representatives were staying in Nanchang. The city’s People's Congress and People's Political Consultative Conference are holding their annual plenums from January 8 to 12.
Delegates to the meetings received a list of 16 rules. No 6 stated, “the central government’s relevant provisions on tobacco control will be strictly implemented. Smoking is strictly prohibited in meeting rooms and other public areas with no-smoking signs.”
“The air in the meeting rooms is fresher and everyone is more energised and focused too,” several delighted female representatives told Xinhua.
“As quitting smoking itself is a process, it’s inevitable there will be people who want to smoke,” Wu Xincai, deputy director of the general office of the Nanchang Municipal People’s Congress, told Xinhua.
“When representatives enquire ‘Where should I go to smoke?’, staff will first advise them not to smoke. If that doesn’t work, then they will lead them to quiet ventilated outdoor areas.”
During the second meeting of the 15th Lanzhou Municipal People’s Congress, smoking is banned in all meeting rooms, halls and auditoriums, lounges and restaurants and every representative received a leaflet about the ban.
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco, accounting for 43 per cent of the world's tobacco production and with a smoking population of more than 300 million.