From: Reuters
Published March 10, 2008 08:29 AM

China officials urged to curb social smoking

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese government employees should be banned from offering or receiving cigarettes on social occasions, a member of parliament said, a move that would reverse an entrenched tradition and is unlikely to see the light of day.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised in 2004 that August's Beijing Games would be "smoke-free," but there has been no announcement of Olympic restrictions with just months to go until the opening ceremony.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis last October, and in 1995 the city designated hospitals, schools, theatres, libraries, banks, shops and all public transport as smoke-free areas, a ban that is commonly ignored.

"Government departments and their employees are responsible for taking the lead in China's tobacco control," Xinhua news agency on Monday quoted Yan Aoshuang, a Beijing deputy to the National People's Congress, as saying.

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Yan said government employees should not be allowed to accept cigarettes for free or at discounted prices from tobacco companies.

"Besides, all government offices should ban smoking in the workplace to ensure a smoking-free environment," she said on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session.

Yan also said the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and Ministry of Culture should draft regulations to ban disguised tobacco adverts and smoking scenes in films and on television.

China is the world's largest cigarette producer and Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of about 320 million making it a magnet for multinationals and focus of international health concern.

Chinese cigarettes are also among the cheapest in the world, with a packet costing as little as $0.08. Business deals are commonly signed in a pall of smoke and cigarettes are commonly offered as gifts.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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