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Draft Law Bans Sale of Alcohol and Tobacco to Minors
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China's legislature is considering its law to ban the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to the country's estimated 300 million young people below the age of 18.

A draft amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors would compel shopkeepers to display signs saying that cigarettes and alcohol would not be sold to minors.

The draft amendment, submitted to China's legislature on Tuesday for a preliminary reading, contains 25 new provisions, but has no specified penalties for violations.

It stipulates that shops or individuals caught selling tobacco and drink to minors will be asked to "correct their mistakes" and receive "administrative punishment", which could include fines.

The law follows growing official alarm in China about the long-term health of the nation's huge army of hardcore smokers. Health Ministry surveys have shown that Chinese smokers are picking up the habit at a younger age and the number of smokers under the age of 18 is estimated at 50 million.

The draft amendment would also prohibit the production and sale of books, newspapers, audio-video products, computer games and cartoons with pornographic, violent, or disturbing content or that provide gambling information to minors.

It would require commercial dance halls, bars and Internet cafes to put up signs stating that minors would be refused entry.

Statistics from the Beijing Municipal Reformatory in 2005 showed that 33.5 percent of young offenders had been influenced by Internet games and pornographic websites.

China's Law on the Protection of Minors went into effect in 1992.

"Over the past ten years or so, Chinese society has seen significant changes and some new problems are threatening the healthy development of children," said Zhu Mingshan, Vice Chairman of the Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs of the National People's Congress (NPC), at the 23rd session of the NPC Standing Committee that started on Tuesday.

The draft amendment also aims to protect the privacy of minors, prohibiting the opening, withholding or destruction of their letters, diaries and e-mail by anyone, except judicial staff and parents and guardians of disabled children.

It also threatens "severe punishment" to anyone profiting from threatening or cheating children or forcing them to beg or act in other undesirable ways. Anyone who compels minors to commit crimes will face "severe punishment".

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2006)

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