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Beijing women smoking more
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More women in Beijing have taken up smoking in the past 10 years, though the average smoking rate in the Olympic city is declining, a government-backed research has found.

The smoking rate among women in Beijing was around 10.4 percent in 2004, compared with 8.76 percent in 1997, according to the research sponsored by Think Tank Research Center for Health Development, a government-backed tobacco control organization based in Beijing.

No update was given in its report published on Friday, though Think Tank did say "the smoking rate among Beijing women was still rising".

Most of the women smokers were businesswomen, actresses, singers and young students who think it's cool to light up a cigarette.

Beijing's overall smoking rate, however, saw a 11.5-percent decline in the past decade, according to the report, based on a 10-year-long research carried out by Beijing's Capital Medical University.

It said the smoking rate among Beijing residents was around 23 percent at the end of last year, compared with 34.5 percent in 1997.

"Beijing's anti-smoking efforts have proven as effective as those of New York City," the report said, "with an annual 1.08 percent decline in smoking rates since a regional smoking ban in public areas took effect in 1995."

It said the absolute majority of Beijingers upheld the ban, and suggested it should extend to more public facilities including workplace and even streets.

The 1995 ban put hospitals, nurseries, primary and secondary schools, theaters, libraries, stadiums, museums, banks, post offices, shops and all means of public transport as smoking-free areas.

As a part of the research, a 2007 survey by Capital Medical University indicated 75.3 percent of the respondents suggested smoking should also be banned in the workplace, and 68.5 percent said the ban should extend to restaurants, bars and other entertainment facilities.

In the survey, which tracked 5,270 health workers, food and beverage industry employees and men in the street, 60.2 percent of the respondents suggested university campuses should also be off-limits to smokers and 51.4 percent said smoking should be banned in Wangfujing Street, Beijing's city center pedestrian street.

Nearly 80 percent of the people surveyed said those who smoke in public areas should face a fine from 10 to 50 yuan (1.4 to 7 U.S. dollars), while 71 percent suggested the government should impose higher taxes on tobacco.

The Chinese are among the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of more than 320 million, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health concerns.

Beijing's first smoking-free restaurant, Meizhou Dongpo, reported business declines after it enforced a smoking ban in October.

The chain restaurant serving the spicy fare of southwest Sichuan Province, had trained its waitresses how to discourage people from lighting up, but met resistance from customers who would locked staff out of private dining rooms to sneak a quick puff.

Beijing has yet to issue clear rules on smoking bans to ensure a smoking-free Olympic Games in August.

China banned smoking in taxis in October and launched a drive to ban smoking in hospitals, schools, and government offices last year.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2008)

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