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Lawmakers press for smoking control
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Lawmakers are pressing for tighter tobacco control to reduce smoking prevalence in China, where a quarter of the population are smokers.

The country should initiate a tobacco control program as soon as possible to cut down tobacco supplies and demands, and protect people's health, Ma Li, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), said on the sidelines of the top legislature's annual meeting.

China now has more than 350 million smokers, more than 26 percent of its total population, said Ma, also director of the China Population and Development Research Center.

With an annual sale of two trillion cigarettes, China is the world's largest cigarette market.

"Should the current smoking prevalence continue, two million Chinese would die from, and six to eight million would suffer, tobacco-related diseases by 2030," Ma said.

China joined the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, but has not yet had a national program for tobacco control so far, Ma noted.

"Tobacco control in China is of great importance to the endeavour in the whole world," Ma said. "The country should initiate a national control program to fulfill its commitment to the FCTC and to safeguard the health of the Chinese people."

Ma urged the Ministry of Health to outline a five or ten-year-program to keep tobacco production and sales under control, and gradually encourage tobacco growing areas to shift to crop substitution.

Ma also suggested relevant authorities make a public report once a year on the country's tobacco control progress.

Ma's concern over the lagging progress of tobacco control was shared by NPC deputy Wang Longde, head of the China Preventive Medicine Association.

"Nearly half of China's male health workers smoke; cigarette packages sold in China bear only minimum warning slogans or pictures; and it is common practice to give cigarettes as gifts. All these are making tobacco control a pressing job at hand," Wang said.

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