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China to set up anti-smoking clinics
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China will survey smoking habits among key sectors, including doctors and teachers, in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities this year as it works to establish a national network of anti-smoking clinics.


The goal is to have at least one outpatient facility in each province, where smokers would be offered a combination of medical and psychological treatment depending on their nicotine dependence.


The survey, whose parameters were yet to be determined, would study whether people knew of the risks of smoking and how to stop, according to the Department of Maternal and Child Health Care and Community Health of China's Ministry of Health.


China has 350 million smokers, whose numbers are growing by more than 3 million a year. There are 50 million teen-aged smokers as well. The number of non-smokers in China affected by passive smoking was 540 million as of 2007, one-third of whom were under 18 years old.


What these numbers mean is that about two-thirds of the population either smokes or is affected by those who do.


Each year, second-hand smoking kills more than 100,000 people, the ministry estimated in a 2007 report.


Nonetheless, there aren't many outpatient anti-smoking clinics, even in a city like Beijing. In the capital, for example, 22 clinics were set up in 1996, but only three remain.


Other planned anti-smoking measures would be no-smoking workplaces and educational efforts in the school system. And of course, the Olympics are to be promoted as smoke-free.


China has also made efforts to reduce support for tobacco product makers. In May 2003, the government signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which took effect two years later and helped limit the promotion of domestic tobacco enterprises.


(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2008)

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