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).