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Kudos to Beijing's Efforts for Smoke-Free Olympics

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on April 1, 2008

Judging from the many comments from Chinese readers of my last blog on foreign broadcast bans from Tiananmen Square during the Olympics, you’d think that the international media have no other agenda but to vilify the Chinese government. So please allow me to disabuse you of that notion by taking this opportunity to extend my heartfelt praise for Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on smoking in public places. According to the China Daily, beginning May 1, smoking at government offices, public dining halls and business plazas, and on public transportation as part of the city’s pledge to stage a Smoke-Free Olympics.

There are an estimated 350 million smokers in China, and the Ministry of Health estimates that at least one million people die from health-related causes per year and that one third of all men in their twenties and thirties will die of smoking within 30 to 40 years—as two thirds of this age group smokes, one half of whom will die from either cancer or heart failure. When you factor in deaths from second-hand smoke, the numbers get scarier still. More than 100,000 die annually from diseases caused by passive smoking, said the ministry’s 2007 Report on China’s Smoking Control.

So again, I say “Bravo” to Beijing for trying to snuff out smoking in more public places. Last fall it banned people from lighting up in taxis, while smoking in hospitals, schools and museums has been outlawed for more than a decade and smoking rates have fallen from 34.5% in 1997 to 23% last year. Sadly, much of the rest of the country lags badly behind on reducing the incidence of smoking.

Less encouraging was the decision taken at the latest meeting of the National People’s Congress last month to merge the State Tobacco Monopoly Adminstration into a new Ministry of Industry and Information. I foresee conflicts between this new “super” ministry and the Ministry of Health. All legal tobacco production is controlled by the government, but thousands of illegal cigarette factories crank out hundreds of millions of counterfeit cigarettes per year, making quality control virtually impossible. These gaspers are especially heavy in tar and nicotine, and sell for as little as 40 cents a pack. And although China has pledged to abolish all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship by 2011, presently only 28 cities on the Chinese mainland are free of advertising on tobacco.

But even Beijing has some way to go. Smoking is still allowed in the workplace, for example. Indeed, unlike the west, there isn’t much of a social stigma attached to smoking, and the country does not yet have much in the way of celebrity anti smoking advocates such as super model Kristy Turlington. Zhang Ziyi, are you listening?

Reader Comments


April 1, 2008 6:59 PM

Yeah, well done China. Now if they could only start cutting down on the 'bashing monks to death' problem it would be just like Disneyland.


April 2, 2008 1:50 AM

The western medias have seriously hurt their images in China recently, thanks to their biasness on tibet issues. Even if the Chinese government let them into Chinese market, I doubt they will be trusted by Chinese people anymore.


April 2, 2008 9:52 AM


Fascism and totalitarianism does have its uses.


April 2, 2008 10:37 AM

It's a good first step; it would be even better if they stopped the forced abortions, organ-harvests from political prisoners, and jailing people for going to church.


April 2, 2008 11:09 AM

Now if only the air they breath wasn't worse for your lungs, they might be on to something there.


April 3, 2008 11:50 AM

Way to go! I think Chinese government should ban people smoking on streets, even in clubs, restaurants,everywhere as long as it's a public place. i hate people who walk ahead of me on the street smoke,the smoke blows right onto my face - "passive smoking", which really piss me off. What i do in this situation is to thrust the smoker aside and throw him the cold eye.


April 3, 2008 8:53 PM

Andy, you're either a very funny man or you're mental. Bias on Tibet? Western media trusted by China..? Ha. Ha. Ha.

Universe Custodian Guardians

April 5, 2008 1:44 AM

Universe Custodian Guardians
Support our campaign:

Cancel China Olympics' in year 2008
CHINA executes 1000 humans a year.
Nobody has the right to kill a human.

Olympics & Olympians are meant to be seen as Roll-model for young humans & Humankind. China an Evil political Tyranny uses Executions to help it stay in power. This makes China unfit to be a Roll-model. Therefore the China Olympics need to be cancelled.

The International Olympic Committee prostituted itself to Evil.
Tyranny & executions are a serious threat to the human species. By allowing China to hold the Olympics the IOC has betrayed its goals & ideals. The IOC should be closed down it represent Evil Greed & endorses killings of humans.

What You Must Do:

Start a Cancel China Olympics petition mentioning this UCG campaign release, sign a petition.
Call talkback radio to discuss: Cancel China Olympics mentioning this UCG campaign release.
Contact news & current affairs television concerning: Cancel China Olympics mentioning this UCG campaign release.
Email, phone, mail politician to Cancel China Olympics mentioning this UCG campaign release.

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To keep the campaign going funds are needed
PO Box 662 Endeavour Hills 3802 Vic Australia


April 5, 2008 5:22 PM

Came back from China where I got defrauded by scammers who invited me to China to sell them my healthy products. They will sign worthless contracts and ask you for expensive gifts (Chinese way of doing business). Among cheap gifts they will ask for cigarettes.
China won't stop smoking where they want and robs you when they can.

PS: It's nationwide! People watch out!

Katie Leung

April 7, 2008 5:43 PM

@ Hedi

If you think it's worthless then why did you sign ? duh.

Ironic enough, "ask you for expensive gifts" then "Among cheap gifts they will ask for cigarettes"

if you want to lie, make sure the lies match up one another.

You should call yourself lucky that you're at least doing business in China, try other developing countries and see if you come back empty handed.

Katie Leung

April 7, 2008 5:51 PM

"Rob" is when they take things away from you without your consent using threat or violent act. But here as you stated they "ask" you for the gifts, and you somehow "willingly" gave it to them because of the importance of a few "worthless" contracts . LOL.

If you're not happy then cancel the contracts, don't go on the net and moan, it's you stupidity and you only have yourself to blame.

PS : if the contracts really worthless then why did you give them expensive gifts in return ? weird.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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