China’s Campaign to Kick the Habit Just Got Real

As the world’s leading consumer of tobacco, China is getting serious about its non-smoking campaign. Beginning on Monday, June 1, new, harsher legislation banning smoking in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and offices will take effect. Implementing fines for offenders, the venue they break the new law at and even a hotline to rat someone out at, are new tactics officials in Beijing are hoping will curb the habit for many smokers.

Get caught smoking in Beijing where the new law prohibits it and you’ll be subject to a 200 Yuan ($32.25) fine, with a potential fine of 10,000 Yuan ($1,600) to the venue for not enforcing the ban. And, should you find the fine insignificant and continue to smoke where you shouldn’t, getting caught three times will get your name dishonored by having it published on a government website listing you as a repeat offender.

While China is home to the world’s largest tobacco company, China National Tobacco Corp., the country’s over 300 million who partake in the bad habit have created a critical health crisis. The state-owned tobacco giant not only is responsible for about 7-10 percent of the government’s revenue and thousands of jobs, it is also accountable for the high rate of respiratory and heart diseases due to consumption and second-hand smoke.

Cigarettes in China are quite inexpensive, costing under 5 Yuan (¢.80) per pack. Tobacco analyst Ricardo Tosto says, “When you are looking at trying to combat tobacco use in China, you are almost talking about trying to slow down and turn around an oil tanker.”