The regulation that will control public smoking all throughout China, is currently undergoing the legislative process, said Mao Qun’an, head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s publicity department.
“Strictly controlling smoking in public places in a legal way is a promotion for health,” said Qun’an at a press conference at the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai, adding, “That smoking harms health has become a global consensus”.
A daring move, carrying huge implications
When taking in consideration that China is renowned for having one of the world’s most deep rooted smoking cultures, one can appreciate that by announcing these plans, the commission is taking on a colossal task. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), the country is known to have 300 million smokers, nearly one-third of the world’s total.
This means that getting the Chinese population to quit will carry massive social and economic implications, and also that since one in every three cigarettes smoked in the world can be traced to China, solving this epidemic would also have a tremendous impact on the whole world.
Last month, Shanghai also amended its regulations to ban smoking in public indoor and outdoor areas and these rules will come into effect in March next year. “We are delighted with the adoption of this new law,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO’s representative in China, adding, “Shanghai will be protecting non-smokers from the deadly harm of second-hand smoke.”
A possible hindrance
On a different note, an article published on the 8th of December on international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region,The Diplomat, pointed out that unfortunately there is “an enormous elephant in the room when it comes to smoking in China: tobacco, and specifically the China National Tobacco Corp, is a cash cow for the state coffers.”
Hence some are sceptical about the effectivity of this smoking ban when taking in consideration how the country’s smoking culture and state interests are closely weaved. However the same article mentioned that there is one sliver of hope …. electronic cigarettes.
Can electronic cigarettes help?
China is the native country of the devices which are known to have been industrialised in 2003 by a chemist named Hon Lik. In the same year Lik registered a patent for the familiar modern design, and the first devices hit the Chinese market the next year. By 2006 they were becoming available outside China, and obviously from then on they have boomed on an international scale.
Earlier this year, Public Health England, (PHE), released a study which found vaping to be at least 95% safer than smoking. This led to the products being endorsed as smoking cessation tools throughout the UK, which in turn led to the country reporting the lowest number of smokers ever reported.
Any known harm reduction tool should be considered
The article on the The Diplomat was concluded by rightly pointing out that the smoking crises in China is so widespread and deeply ingrained, that the current situation is truly precarious. Hence any possible harm reduction aids known, such as vaping products, should be seriously considered and tried, as at this point these could only help improve the situation.