China's health authorities are working on a law banning smoking in all indoor public venues while clarifying punishments.
Work on a draft began last year and the National Health and Family Planning Commission is working hard to have national lawmakers issue laws on smoking control with stronger powers than current regulations, the commission told a news conference in Beijing yesterday.
Regulations banning smoking at public venues are in place in many places but are vague on punishments, the commission said, and a new law clarifying punishments is necessary.
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco and also its biggest victim.
The commission said there were more than 300 million smokers across the country with 28.1 percent of them over the age of 15. About 740 million non-smokers suffer the effects of passive smoking, it said.
More than a million people die from smoking-related diseases and about 100,000 people die of diseases due to passive smoking every year, the commission said.
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into force in 2005, was signed by China but has not yet been widely adopted.
Under the framework, smoking should be banned in all workplaces, public venues and public transportation. About 30 to 50 percent of tobacco packaging must have printed warnings such as "Smoking is harmful." But that hasn't happened in China.
"Compared with the damage to health brought by smoking, the economic benefits brought by tobacco are trivial," said Mao Qun'an, a commission spokesman. "So we are greatly promoting legislation on smoking control."
He said the public had a poor understanding of the harm that smoking causes, especially that caused by second and third-hand smoke.
Mao also said authorities are ensuring that proper preparations are underway for the adoption of the new policy that allows couples with either spouse from a one-child family to have a second child.
Relevant services, such as pregnancy health and obstetric care, should be fully prepared for the possible increase in newborns and these preparations were being carried out "in an orderly manner."