A smoke-free China is a healthy China

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Deputies to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the top leg­isla­tive body, and mem­bers of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Political Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, or the top political ad­vi­sory body, from around the coun­try have de­scended (or will soon de­scend) on the cap­i­tal to par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual “two ses­sions”. Since the Bei­jing lo­cal govern­ment passed the coun­try’s strong­est anti-smok­ing lawto date last year, vis­it­ing del­e­gates will be able to en­joy a truly smoke-free en­vi­ron­ment in the city and dur­ing the course of the im­por­tant dis­cus­sions in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple.

What bet­ter set­ting to kick off the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) pe­riod and to push for­ward the “Healthy China” that the 13th Five-Year Plan calls for!

But there is so much more to do. At the end of 2015, there were an es­ti­mated 315 mil­lion smok­ers in China ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. This is a truly stag­ger­ing num­ber. But even more trou­bling is the fact that the over­all num­ber of smok­ers ac­tu­ally in­creased by 15 mil­lion dur­ing the 12th Five-Year Plan (2010-15) pe­riod.

Since at least half of all smok­ers die as a re­sult of their habit, the fact that China’s ad­dic­tion to to­bacco is tak­ing a dread­ful toll on the coun­try’s health is now self-ev­i­dent. And Chi­nese smok­ers are hurt­ing not only them­selves, but through se­cond-hand smoke they are also hurt­ing their friends, fam­ily and oth­ers around them. China sim­ply can­not be a healthy and pro­duc­tive so­ci­ety when the over­all num­ber of smok­ers is grow­ing.

The star­tling fact that the over­all­num­berof­smok­ers is in­creas­ing by the mil­lions ev­ery year should serve as awake­up­call toNPCdeputiesandCPPCCNa­tion­alCom­mit­tee mem­ber­sthat­more— much, much­more— needs to be done.

The fir­stand­mosto­b­vi­ous step is to repli­cate the suc­cess of Bei­jing’ssmoke-free law­na­tion­wide. Avery good­draft na­tional to­bacco con­trol lawhas beenon­the ta­ble at the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, for­morethan a year. Adop­tion of this law wouldbe a huge step for­wardin sup­port of the goal of a “HealthyChina”.

TheWorldHealth Or­ga­ni­za­tion call­sonChi­nese lead­ers an­dleg­is­la­tors to push itupthe pri­or­ity li­s­tand­get it passed.

The pub­lic sup­port­smoke-free pub­lic places. All avail­able data sug­gest that theChi­nese peo­ple­would­strongly sup­port a law­makingin­door pub­lic places 100 per­centsmoke-free. It’s im­por­tant here to say that the anti-smok­ing mes­sage from China’s FirstLadyPeng Liyua­nandco-founder of Mi­crosoft Bill Gateswaswidely cir­cu­late­donChi­nese so­cial­me­dia re­cently— that this par­tic­u­lar im­age­wasso pop­u­lar is a strong sig­nal that there is pub­lic readi­ness for change.

NPCdel­e­gate­sandCPPCCNa­tion­alCom­mit­teemem­bers are wit­ness­ing first­hand the ben­e­fits of asmoke-free en­vi­ron­men­twhile in Bei­jing. Theyandthe peo­ple they rep­re­sent should be able to en­joy the­same­free­dom from se­cond-hand smoke back­home.

Afirm foun­da­tion has been laid with re­cent vic­to­ries in the fight against to­bacco with the suc­cess of Bei­jing’s no-smok­ing law, last year’s tax in­creaseon­ci­garettes, andthe re­stric­tions place­donto­bacco ad­ver­tise­ment in the newAd­ver­tis­ingLaw. Ea­chof the­se­would­have been unimag­in­able even five years ago; an­dall are sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments. But they are not enough— a“HealthyChina” needs a na­tional no-smok­ing law.

The au­thor isWHOrep­re­sen­ta­tive in China.

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