Designated smoke areas harm efforts at reduction
The recent move by the tobacco industry to build more designated smoking zones in public places in many Chinese cities could seriously dampen China’s tobacco control efforts, experts warned on Friday.
“Setting up comfortable and luxurious smoking booths both indoors and outdoors is not an act of care for smokers. Rather, it is an effort to draw them nearer to diseases and death,” said Wu Yiqun, former deputy director of Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, a nongovernmental organization based in Beijing that promotes tobacco control.
“Such measures will make it more difficult for smokers to quit, will attract more people to become smokers, and goes against China’s pledge to reduce smoking.”
The smoking rate for adults in China should be reduced to 20 percent by 2030, according to a plan released by the Chinese government in 2016. The current smoking rate on the mainland is more than 27 percent, and more than 1 million people in China die every year due to smoke-related diseases, according to experts.
A guideline released in July by China Tobacco, a State monopoly, required all its branches to help create a civilized smoking environment to promote good-manned smoking, such as not randomly throwing away cigarette butts.
Tobacco administrations and enterprises at various levels should make detailed five-year plans and try to work with local governments to maintain smoking venues, it said.
Following the guideline, tobacco administrations in some places have accelerated building and upgrading smoking booths, including those installed at indoor public places, and some are well equipped, Wu said.
In Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, some new airtight smoking booths have appeared with facilities such as air conditioners, air purifiers, lighting, fixed chairs and even bathrooms, she said.
Setting up properly-planned smoking zones in public places can ease conflicts between smokers and nonsmokers, and improve social harmony, according to an article by the tobacco administration of Qujing’s Qilin district, in Yunnan province. Qujing city is a major producer of tobacco in China.
The article, posted on the Qilin district government website on Tuesday, said customized facilities in smoking booths can encourage smokers to use the booths.
Xu Chuanxing, a technical officer for tobacco control at the World Health Organization, said smoking zones will not protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, as harmful indoor particles produced by smoke can still leak outside even with air purification facilities.
It is not acceptable to display tobacco advertisements to promote sales at such smoking booths, he said.
At least 20 cities in China have banned smoking in certain public places, including Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an.