Home > Announcements, General > China’s public smoking ban regulation in place, but toothless

China’s public smoking ban regulation in place, but toothless

In my recent trip to China, the one thing that I really disliked was the fact that so many people smoked. Not only that, there was a general disregard for non-smokers who do not wish to be second-hand smokers. While on airplanes, buses, and some other places, people observed non-smoking signs well. In restaurants and other places, adults puffed away unhindered, even while their children sat right next to them. We asked our relatives about the May 1 smoking ban. Their response was, “let’s see.” It was very disappointing. I thought this Xinhua article captured nicely how the Chinese view the new regulation. The 1.2 million deaths a year due to smoking is atrocious and should be screaming at everyone in China! The public is still ignorant of the hazards of smoking. This is an area where the government could clearly do more and is not.

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  1. May 3rd, 2011 at 08:13 | #1

    It would eventually jack up life expectancy/quality of life and reduce health care cost by a good percentage. Most have the wrong idea that smoking could reduce stress. China can learn a lot from US on how to deal/ban smoking.

  2. May 3rd, 2011 at 10:09 | #2

    Agreed, TonyP4.

  3. Charles Liu
    May 3rd, 2011 at 10:34 | #3

    Perhaps the Chinese can try what America went thru in the 80’s, with stuff like smoking section, then transition to full indoor ban.

    It’s a gradual process, for US and China, or anywhere else. I used to hear Paris is full of people smoking and not picking up their poodle’s poop. It wasn’t like that when I visted couple years ago, and very few people smoked indoor.

    In US smoking ban isn’t universal either. There’s no federal smoking ban and only half of the states have legislation. All 50 states are expected to ban indoor smoking by 2020.

    Anyways, strict ban by the Chinese government will only garner human rights violation complaint – isn’t pursuit of happiness a fundamental right? I can just see the crackdown resulting in some nicotine rights activist getting a Nobel.

  4. pug_ster
    May 3rd, 2011 at 10:45 | #4

    I think a few months back the Chinese government wasn’t able to pull off an indoor ban because of heavy lobbying by the Chinese tobacco industry. I agree that this won’t change overnight, but it is a start, and the Chinese government must do a multipronged approach to this that have worked in many Western countries. 1) Have public service announcements about dangers of smoking 2) start encourging companies to make nicotine patches and gums. 3) start fining restaurants, and hotels if they don’t enforce this law. 4) Enforcing laws to stop stores from selling smokes to minors … etc…

  5. Charles Liu
    May 3rd, 2011 at 10:58 | #5

    OMG I was just kidding, but guess what:


    “major crackdown on smoking in public places”

    New rules on film depiction of smoking is also a “crackdown”. Wait, didn’t the US film industry also stopped showing people smoking?

    Man, the Chinese can’t get a break.

  6. May 3rd, 2011 at 11:44 | #6

    We also stayed at hotels where rooms are supposed to be non-smoking, but have ashtrays in them. One of the hotel rooms where we stayed at, the neighboring room’s smoke was sipping into ours.

    The people are nice, but smoking is just so common, they stopped bothering to think about the non-smokers.

    pug_ster – in the U.S., I think part of tobacco tax goes into funding anti-tobacco advertisements. That’d another to add to the list.

    Charles – everything bad can be pin to ‘China’ and the ‘Chinese’ seem to be a common sport.

  7. silentvoice
    May 4th, 2011 at 08:42 | #7

    What China needs is a modern-day Lín Zéxú. Even supposing they are doing everything right– increasing taxes on cigarettes, educating kids at school and the general population about health risks, and enforcing non-smoking rules– it’ll be at least 30 years before most cities become more like the West.

    The best way to tackle this is to ensure kids and teens don’t take up the habit.

  8. May 4th, 2011 at 10:13 | #8

    Here’s a recent People’s Daily report detailing with stats on how horrible smoking is in China:
    NGO calls for tough action on tobacco control

  9. Charles Liu
    May 4th, 2011 at 11:45 | #9

    The PD article says: “5.4 million people die of smoking-related diseases worldwide, one fifth of whom are in China”

    Um, doesn’t China also have one fifth of population worldwide? Granted statistics can be read many ways, but doesn’t this mean China’s smoking rate (and death as result of it) is on-par with rest of the world?

    Culturally speaking, smokers in China are predominately male. Wouldn’t this contribute to the rebalancing of gender ratio as result of genocide of female infants China is accused of? Thus stave off a world-wide rampage of unmated Chinese males some in the West have expressed concerns over?

    (Just to be clear, the last part is a joke. However I enjoy an occasional cigar while golfing or playing poker, so it doesn’t bother me as much.)

  10. May 5th, 2011 at 07:58 | #10

    While I personally abhor the smoking habit, (my father was a smoker until he was diagnosed with cancer, and I never liked his smoking habit), I also would not enforce the ban too harshly, nor would I crack down too hard on the habit.

    The common man needs his vices as his true “rights”, the things that he understands for their simplicity of bad and good intermixed.

    Afterall, many things in society are wasteful, addictive, such as even internet addiction.

    The only thing I would say we need to regulate, are the profits generated by corporations from these addictions, (1) they cannot be excessive, (2) they must be properly taxed to offset the harm done to society as a whole, and (3) they must be regulate to prevent artificial increases of addiction (such as adding nicotine).

    While some addictions are expected from a society, there will always be some portion of the population who will reject any addiction tendencies (I think biologically, there are some human beings who are naturally resistant to certain types of addictions. For example, I personally never had any taste for alcohol or tobacco, probably because my taste senses are not that great. Makes me a lousy wine taster, but then alcohol and tobacco products had almost zero appeal for me since I was a child. I tried them when I was young, never liked them.)

    And as Charles stated above, the smoking population in China are not that more than the rest of the world per population basis. So I would not worry too much about it.

    Indoor bans are absolutely necessarily, not to necessarily reduce the overall smoking rate, but just to keep public buildings more clean and more friendly to non-smokers.

    But I don’t think we need to get more strict about smoking than that, in terms of laws.

  11. May 5th, 2011 at 11:10 | #11


    Fair enough. I think bans simply need to be enforced. The government cannot come off as jerks in doing so, so I can understand a lot of ‘enforcement’ is done by peer pressure. But the ‘norm’ in China is extreme tolerant right now by non-smokers for having to inhale other’s smoke.

    In ‘softening’ pug_ster’s list of actions, maybe the Chinese government can hire 1000 employees in loud anti-smoking uniforms to roam the country. Wherever they see smoking bans being violated, they politely remind the relevant people the need to enforce or not to violate. The ROI on this would make complete sense.

  12. May 7th, 2011 at 11:24 | #12

    in Grand Rapids, Michigan USA where I live, May 1st was our 1 year anniversary of the no smoking ban… i really like not smelling like an ashtray after a night out (i do not smoke) and think it is a decent law in general.

    I was in JinShan in April 2011 and found it kind of shocking to see and smell cigarettes EVERYWHERE i went, even in the factory i was working at… i almost couldn’t get away from the smell of cigs everywhere i went… so mny smokers in China….so after just a year in my hometown it was surprising to me to realize it was so nice to NOT have 2nd hand smoke invade my life and to see how invasive it is when you are not used to it any longer…

  13. June 2nd, 2011 at 00:42 | #13

    My new hero: Zhang Yue

  14. Wukailong
    June 2nd, 2011 at 04:24 | #14

    I support Zhang Yue too! 🙂 Naturally, I’ve thought about doing similar things, but in my case the possibilities of misunderstanding is too great. I have on occasions thought about a milder form, which is to pick up cigarette butts people throw on the street and hand them back to them, saying “you forgot this.”

  15. June 2nd, 2011 at 11:03 | #15

    Good idea! I encourage you to do it. Even if you do this in public to, say, 10 people, that may in turn trigger, say, 2 bystanders to do the same. You can see how such a grassroots effort catching on and spreading fast. Your experience and peoples reaction would make for a great blog post too!

    I think I want to try to do this next time while in China. Perhaps recruit some pretty girls to help, and I’d be the one holding the camera. 🙂

  16. wwww1234
    June 2nd, 2011 at 21:45 | #16


    the response here in China is often quite different than in Hong Kong or the US. Mild reminder of excessive loudness is nowadays very often totally ignored in north america airport lounges, but almost invariably heeded inside china airports and highspeed trains, mostly accompanied by an apology. But we are often overwhelmed by the volume. May be the response would be different if I am taking a bus with a different clientile.

    On the beaches, handing out plastic bags to the garbage polluters often will do the trick without a camera, esp to young people. They do feel embarrassed about their life long habit. You can get the garbage bags at the entrance of any locas markets.

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