Local policy-makers today participated in a conference outlining strategies to limit teenagers' access to tobacco products. Yunnan Net is reporting that anti-smoking advocates recommended outlawing cigarette sales within 100 meters of all schools in Kunming.
While today's hearings were largely exploratory, it appears the Spring City government is actively looking for solutions to a growing problem. In Kunming the percentage of young people smoking is more than quadruple the national average. According to a 2009 survey, more than half of Kunming males age 16-18 smoke, while nine percent of girls do.
National statistics cited in the Yunnan Net article report that China has 15 million smokers between the ages of 13 and 18, a rate of one in nine. An additional 40 million adolescents have tried cigarettes.
China has the largest population of smokers in the world – roughly 350 million people. Mainland tobacco companies produce 2.2 trillion cigarettes annually to feed the country's voracious appetite for nicotine.
Laws limiting the sale of cigarettes can be a thorny issue both nationally and in Yunnan. A Brookings Institute study found that up to ten percent of all Chinese tax revenue comes from tobacco. In Yunnan the number is significantly higher as roughly 45 percent of all provincial tax receipts are generated from tobacco.
Highlighting the intertwining relationship of government and cigarette manufacturers, the smoking control hearings today were hosted by government-run Yunnan Tobacco Monopoly Bureau (云南省烟草专卖局) at its headquarters in Kunming. Testimony was given not only by public health advocates and university professors, but also by several prominent tobacco industry leaders.
Campaigns to limit the effects of smoking, especially second-hand smoke, are not new to China. However, a look around the restaurants, bars, internet cafes and taxis of Kunming shows that the 2011 nationwide ban on smoking in public places has had little effect locally.
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