WHO asks China to nationally extend Beijing anti-tobacco law

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Beijing, May 30 (IANS) The World Health Organization called on the Chinese government on Monday to enforce a strict national level anti-tobacco law following the “successful” implementation of the model legislation in Beijing, which has been “smoke-free” for a year.

“It is time to extend the same protection from second-hand smoke Beijingers now enjoy to the rest of the country, through the adoption of a strong national smoke-free law,” said WHO representative in China Bernhard Schwartlander.

A year on, the law’s success is “proof” something can be done to protect citizens from smoke, Efe news quoted him as saying.

“Enforcement is good, compliance is good, public support is high, and Beijingers are breathing easier as a result. We applaud Beijing for its very strong leadership,” he said.

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The WHO considers the law exemplary as it fulfils all parameters indicated by the organisation, including a smoking ban in indoor workplaces, public transport and indoor or other suitable public places.

The UN health agency also said it should be compulsory at the national level for cigarette packages to carry pictorial warnings of the health dangers of tobacco.

According to WHO data, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco, with 315 million smokers, 11 percent of whom are aged between 13 and 15 years old.

One million Chinese lives are lost every year due to smoking-related ailments, while 700 million are passive smokers, of whom some 100,000 die annually.

Besides the anti-smoking law in Beijing, Chinese authorities have also increased the tax on tobacco, causing sales to fall between 3.3 to 5.5 percent.

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