'I've travelled 20 provinces telling people how bad smoking is, and now I want to talk to you. You don't really want to smoke, do you? Why don't you put that out right now and take some time to read this material?' Zhang Yue asked a startled smoker in central Beijing, who responded by stamping out his cigarette butt. A native of Liaoning province, 43-year-old Mr Zhang has been travelling around China by train since November, confronting every smoker he sees with warnings about the dangers of tobacco. The former stock trader has already spent 40,000 yuan (HK$37,600) of his own money to produce literature he gives to every smoker he encounters and business cards labelling him 'China's Anti-Smoking Man', and on giving compensation money to anyone who agrees to let him crush their cigarettes. 'My father was a heavy smoker and he was also a teacher in my school. He loved to smoke and work at the same time, and some of my earliest memories are of being tormented by his secondhand smoke,' Mr Zhang said. Being a filial son, he said he suffered in silence in a toxic environment, and watched 12 close relatives ruin their health and deplete their savings by smoking. But when Mr Zhang's younger brother came to live with him in 1990 and started to smoke, Mr Zhang decided to put his foot down and make his brother quit. 'I didn't dare tell my parents not to smoke, but there was no way I was going to keep my mouth shut with my brother. I wouldn't let him smoke in the house or around me and, while he didn't quit in one day, my pressure eventually worked and he quit for good,' Mr Zhang said. He decided to muster enough courage to confront every other smoker in his family, including his 60-year-old father, who was the most stubborn. 'I told my father he was hurting three generations of loved ones, and begged him not to smoke in front of my mother, his children or my children. When he finally quit in 1997 after several attempts, I had used my powers of persuasion and emotion to make all 12 smokers in my family quit for good,' Mr Zhang said. Despite being faced with the addictive power of cigarettes and their social acceptance across China, Mr Zhang gained enough confidence from watching his father's experience to believe that he could persuade others. 'I tell smokers how cigarettes destroy their wealth and their health, how unattractive it makes them, and how they are not only harming themselves, but the rest of society,' he said. He believes pervasive peer pressure in China makes people feel they need to smoke to be accepted in social situations. 'When I was 16 and working in a production brigade with about 30 other guys, I realised I was the only person who wasn't smoking. One day I decided to try it myself just to see what all the fuss was about. But after the first awful puff I knew I would never try it again.' Mr Zhang abides by three rules to ensure he is not supporting the smoking habit: 'I don't make friends with smokers, or people who at least won't not smoke in my personal space, I won't buy products from merchants who won't extinguish their cigarettes and I won't ride in taxis that are driven by smokers.' Though some are not happy about being confronted, Mr Zhang says he has never been accosted, and that most smokers he approaches listen to him. 'More than 30 print and broadcast media have reported my efforts and I have already travelled to more than 45 cities in 20 provinces,' he said. He vows to continue travelling China until at least May next year. That is when the World Health Organisation's 191 member countries are expected to adopt a controversial public-health pact aimed at a curbing second-hand smoke and cigarette advertising. Along the way he has received numerous small donations towards his campaign from media groups and local health and government officials, although his work is not officially sanctioned. While his friends and family are supportive, his wife is not particularly pleased at him spending their savings to help strangers quit smoking. 'I think the most important thing a person can do with his life is be engaged in social welfare, and my family accept this as driving the core of my existence,' Mr Zhang said.