11 May 2010 09:52

China to step up restrictions on smoking

Shanghai. May 11. INTERFAX-CHINA - The Chinese government will ban smoking in some public places from the beginning of next year to fulfill commitments to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a Ministry of Health (MoH) official said at a press conference in Beijing on May 10.

"From January 2011, smoking will be banned in indoor public spaces, public vehicles, indoor workplaces as well as outdoor workplaces wherever possible," said Yang Qing, director of the maternity and children's health care and community health division under the MoH.

The WHO FCTC was accepted by China since January 2006, but so far only small steps have been made towards meeting obligations under the agreement.

In May 2009, the MoH issued guidelines banning smoking in all its offices at the local and state level across the country as well as in 50 percent of China's medical institutions by 2010. The guidelines, which mark an important step towards restrictions on smoking in public places, also provides for a smoking ban in all medical institutions by 2011.

The MoH will ban smoking in its headquarters from May 2010 to September 2010, Yang said. The MoH has set up a special team to implement the measures, which include a ban on offering cigarettes to others and a RMB 500 ($73.21) cash incentive to each employee who successfully quits smoking for one year.

A draft measure on health management in public places issued by the Sichuan Provincial Government in February this year bans smoking in 12 public places, including kindergartens, medical institutions, department stores, bookstores, museums and public vehicles. The measure is expected to take effect before the end of this year.

According to Yang, preliminary work is being done on drafting anti-smoking legislation on the national level.

Outpatient smoking cessation services are being provided in some hospitals, such as Chaoyang Hospital and the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital, both in Beijing.

"The MoH advocates the development of outpatient services for smokers trying to quit. There have been calls for the reimbursement of medical expenses by smokers trying to quit under the national medical insurance plans, and the MoH is working with relevant government agencies to achieve the goal," the official said.

- KZ