China Ban Smoking in Public Spaces

Published on Author taa16

On June 1, stricter rules will be enforced on smoking in public places in Beijing, including bars, offices, stadiums and some outdoor areas such as those of hospitals and schools. Fines for failing to follow the rule could be as high as 10,000 yuan ($1,600) for the places and could be up to 200 yuan for smokers. Cigarette advertising and tobacco-company sponsorship of events will also be banned (The Economist).

This might affect the tobacco industry, which makes $7000 for each of the more than 6 million people who die each year from smoking-related illness (Rueters). About 300 million Chinese, or one in four, smoke every day. This proportion has remained steady in recent years; efforts to publicize the dangers have been half-hearted. As reported by World Lung Foundation, last year more than 5.8 trillion cigarettes were smoked, making China National Tobacco Corp the largest cigarette maker in the world. Despite its size, China National is little known outside of the country: Almost all of its cigarettes are sold within China, where it has no real competition (Bloomberg).

At 2014 annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the prime minister, Li Keqiang, declared “war” on pollution. In February, Li Keming, Li Keqiang’s brother, was removed from a senior position in the state tobacco monopoly and assigned to another job, which was cheered by those who worried about conflicting interests between the two Lis. On March 15, at the end of this year’s meeting, Li Keqiang admitted that government efforts were falling far short of public expectations. He failed to mention that on controlling one source of foul air—smoking—the government’s record has been worse. Despite critique of the proposed regulation as “absolutist” and “expansionist”, such tobacco ban is necessary for public health as well as China’s effort to reduce air pollution. Even China’s tobacco industry is showing some awareness of the lethal threat it is posing (The Economist).


5 Responses to China Ban Smoking in Public Spaces

  1. Chinese tobacco companies are state-owned. I wonder what kind of implications increased regulations will have on their bottom-line, all moral and health concerns aside.

  2. BBC reports that cigarette advertising will also be hit, with a widespread prohibition covering public transport, film, magazines and newspapers.

  3. This seems like a huge step for the Chinese in terms of general concern for public health. In what we’ve read in class, it seems like those who are spending a lot in urban areas are using it to sustain a heavy alcohol and tobacco regimen. Given this, I wonder if the popularity of tobacco vaporizers/electronic cigarettes will grow. Personally, I know nothing in regard to tobacco alternatives in China, but I have noticed its recent jump in public use in the US. Cities, such as NYC, have started to ban these as well in public areas like restaurants, citing second-hand effects.

  4. I wonder how effective stricter rules will be in reducing the number of smokers in China. Many countries, including South Korea, increased the price of tobacco to decrease the number of smokers and so far, it has been successful in many countries.

  5. Taking on Big Tobacco is not easy, particularly when it is the single biggest source of tax revenue for the Yunnan provincial government and many local governments. The tensions are obvious; I oversaw an Econ 398 project on the political economy of such measures some years back, with Spain as an example. For more on the political economy of tobacco in China, see Andrew Wedeman, From Mao to Market (2003) in the library. I used it as a text a decade back because of the manner in which it highlighted central-local tensions in China.