A month-long publicity campaign is to be launched in China from Monday to promote a nationwide ban on smoking in public places.
A spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission Mao Qunan told a launch ceremony in Beijing the campaign was aimed at raising public awareness of the health risks of tobacco use, Xinhua reported.
China has pledged to ban smoking in public areas – such as restaurants, hotels, bars, cinemas and on public transport – under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The country ratified the pact in 2005, but has failed to enforce all its anti-smoking measures.
“China still faces an uphill battle to honour its commitment on smoking control. The popularity of tobacco use is partly due to the lack of understanding of smoking-induced diseases and the harm of being exposed to secondary smoke,” Mao said.
Health authorities said in January they aimed to roll out a nationwide smoking ban in public places by the end of this year.
The central government issued an order in December telling Communist Party officials to “lead by example” and to stop smoking in areas such as government offices, schools, hospitals and sports and cultural venues.
China is the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer and consumer, with more than 300 million smokers, according to national statistics.
About 740 million people, including 180 million children, are affected by passive smoking.
Medical experts have blamed smoking as a main contributor to the country’s surging lung cancer rates.
A study released by the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, a leading Chinese medical institution, found the death rate from lung cancer had risen 465 per cent over the past three decades.
National legislation enacting a ban on smoking in public places is viewed by the authorities as the most effective way for the government to fulfil its commitments, but so far action has been limited to several cities.