China is finally to impose tough nationwide restrictions on smoking in public places, a public health official promised this week.
Mao Qun’an, head of the publicity department at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, reportedly said at the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai that new regulations would forbid smoking in indoor public places, workplaces, and public transport as well as some outdoor areas such as those attached to schools and hospitals.
It is unclear whether restrictions will apply to vaping as well as smoking of combustible tobacco products.
Both individuals and companies will be liable for breaches of the new regime, first drafted in 2014.
China has been vowing to tighten controls on smoking for some years, but in practice smoke-free rules have largely been put in place by cities rather than the national government, and enforcement is often lax.
Beijing brought in its public smoking restrictions in 2015, and Shanghai’s take effect next year.
What This Means: As with China’s previous public commitments to sterner tobacco control, it still remains to be seen whether this undertaking – or the further increase in tax rates that has also been mentioned, following a more-than-doubling of them last year – will become reality.
All the same, the growing awareness and discussion of tobacco control in a country that was once synonymous with its absence must be of significance to China’s developing e-cigarette market.
Effects could be felt either way: vaping could be caught up in a crackdown on smoking, or it could be welcomed as an alternative. But given perceptions in many other Asian countries and the undoubted influence of the World Health Organization (WHO) in encouraging China’s firmer stance on smoking, it’s not unreasonable to fear the former.
– ECigIntelligence staff