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More than 90 per cent of participants in the China City Adult Tobacco Survey 2013-14 supported a total ban on smoking inside public places including healthcare facilities, workplaces, schools and taxis. Over 80 per cent of respondents also supported restrictions on smoking in restaurants.

The survey involved 31,151 people from 14 major cities, including Beijing. Conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], the new data provides key information for understanding the tobacco epidemic and the impact of tobacco control measures.

“The overwhelming public support for smokefree environments is an indicator of the success of these policies in China,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of The Union’s China Office. “With this baseline data we can now build on our achievements and direct additional attention to issues that need improvement."

The survey gathered data on exposure to second-hand smoke, tobacco advertising and promotion, the economics of cigarettes, and cessation -- key indicators for tobacco control measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). It also included questions on the developing relationship between tobacco and e-cigarette use. Such surveillance is vital for enhancing the design and implementation of tobacco control action plans.

The results highlighted key areas of concern for public health – more than 40 per cent of respondents reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace during the previous month, and less than 40 per cent of smokers who completed the survey said they had tried to quit in the last year. Crucially, cigarettes remain very cheap, costing on average less than 10 Yuan for a pack of 20, equivalent to just one pound sterling.

“The survey results are encouraging. The tobacco control policies China has introduced are both popular and effective. But a comprehensive package of measures is now needed if China hopes to save the millions of lives currently threatened by exposure to tobacco smoke,” said Dr Ehsan Latif, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “Countries that have introduced WHO’s complete MPOWER package of evidence-based tobacco control measures have achieved great things to protect public health – China can do the same."

The Union has worked with China CDC since 2007 and has supported five major cities to pass laws banning smoking in public places, affecting a total population of 45 million people. These city-level successes have created a nationwide momentum to push for a total ban on smoking in public places, and led to the drafting of a national smokefree law by the National Health and Family Planning Commission. This is currently under review by the State Council.

China’s smoking rate is one of the highest in the world. More than 300 million adults in China smoke tobacco, accounting for 30% of the global population. Smoking leads to 1.3 million tobacco-related deaths in China every year, of which 100,000 are caused by exposure to second-hand smoke. If unchecked it is estimated that tobacco use will account for 3.5 million deaths each year by 2030.

Several strong policies have been introduced so far this year – Beijing’s Smokefree Law, the National Advertising Law, and the first cigarette tax hike since 2009. China has made huge strides to protect public health through tobacco control measures, but as this survey shows, additional and strengthened policies are needed. The survey was a collaborative project involving six organisations including The Union, China CDC and WHO. Access the full report here.

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