With 1.2 million mainland people dying each year from smoking-related diseases, the government recognises that dealing with the matter is central to its efforts to improve the nation's health. The launching of a programme to outlaw the habit in public places is a necessary part of that strategy, although much resolve will be needed if it is to produce results. Authorities have certainly shown a desire to get the at least 36 per cent of the nation's 1.3 billion people who smoke to kick the habit. By being the second nation after Norway to ratify the World Health Organisation's Convention on Tobacco Control, they were setting a goal that would be ambitious for even far more developed nations to attain. The pact came into force in 2005 and the central government has been slowly implementing its requirements. Key among these is putting restrictions on all aspects of the tobacco industry and curbing or banning smoking in public buildings. So far, the efforts have been half-hearted. As a result, there has been no noticeable drop in the number of mainlanders smoking. The announcement that 44 cities and municipalities have signed up to a campaign to promote smoke-free areas in hospitals, schools and government buildings is encouraging, although a wider scale would be better. The task at hand is huge, after all. Equally disappointing is the lack of financial resources that have been dedicated to the scheme. If it is to have any discernable impact, it has to reach as wide a number of people as possible. Then must come the most important element, one for which the mainland has a poor track record in many areas: enforcement. Just how this is to be done is not clear. The lack of financial assistance to local officials implies that a fragmented approach is going to result. Yet given the cost of so many people smoking, the reverse has to be the case. The economic bill from lost productivity of the workforce through time taken off for smoking breaks and smoking-related sick leave, and the health bill for sufferers of cancers and lung diseases make such an investment a sound economic move. Despite the government's challenge, it has been letting tobacco companies increase their foothold. Foreign firms, losing market share in developed nations where anti-smoking campaigns have been broadly successful, have been allowed to join the throng. The income for the government through tax is enormous: hundreds of billions of cigarettes are sold each year, firmly making the mainland the world's biggest tobacco market. Tobacco firms have realised the dilemma the government faces and have increased advertising for their products, garnering millions of new smokers nationwide. Developed countries have realised that the cost of smoking to the community is not worth allowing the tobacco industry to continue operating in the way in which it has been accustomed. Most have signed up to and ratified the WHO's pact and are rigidly enforcing its requirements. Cities and towns the world over have put in place smoking bans in public places and cigarette packets must now carry large health warnings. Advertising of tobacco products has been banned or severely curtailed. These are requirements that the mainland has also agreed to implement, but the government needs to make more effort to make them a reality. This is also the case with protective laws it has enacted in many other areas but failed to properly police. This cannot be allowed to happen with the tobacco control convention. The health of too many people - and potentially, the nation's development - is at risk.