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China aims to impose a nationwide ban on smoking in public places this year, as authorities move to stamp out a widespread practice that has taken a severe toll on citizens’ health.
China, home to some 300 million smokers, is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, and smoking is a ubiquitous part of social life, particularly for men.
Tougher regulation of smoking is a priority this year, officials from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said this week, adding that the agency was pushing lawmakers to toughen laws on tobacco use.
“Compared to the damage to health that smoking causes, tobacco’s economic benefits are trivial,” Mao Qun’an, a spokesman for the commission, told a news conference on Tuesday.
The drumbeat to reduce tobacco use has grown steadily louder in the past few years, but experts say China’s powerful tobacco industry, which has resisted raising cigarette prices and use of health warnings on cigarette packs, has been a tough opponent.
The nationwide smoking ban has long been in the works. Several cities have banned smoking in public places, but enforcement has been lax. …