Chinese officials urged to help smokers kick habit

Officials in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, are being urged to stop smoking during their everyday public duties, and at official events.

In a written proposal, Guangzhou Tobacco Control Office said the city's officials can set a good example to the public, help encourage local companies to ban smoking, and help smokers quit cigarettes too, if they refrain from smoking during public and official duties.

The proposal was published online on Friday to mark the 26th World No Tobacco Day.

Wu Renchu, director of the Tobacco Office, said it is now busy drafting specific rules to ban smoking in the city, describing it as a "long-term task" for the southern metropolis.

According to statistics from Guangzhou Tobacco Control Association, the city is estimated to have more than 2 million smokers, representing 18 percent of its population, and the figure has been rising in recent years.

Tobacco sales were banned in Guangzhou shops on Friday to mark No Tobacco day. All stores in the city were informed of the ban the day before.

"All stores were asked to pull cigarettes from their shelves, or to cover them up on Friday," Wu said.

In many big department stores, supermarkets and cigarette franchised stores in Guangzhou, no cigarettes were on sale on Friday, but people could still buy them in some smaller stores.

But one owner of a cigarette store on Qianjin Road in Guangzhou's Haizhu district said he was never told about the cigarette ban on Friday.

"My store sold cases of cigarettes in the morning," he told China Daily.

Wu admitted the relevant departments were yet to officially introduce punishments or fines for anyone violating the sales ban.

Huang Qunfeng, a local office worker, said it was useless to ban cigarette sales only on No Tobacco Day.

"Relevant departments should introduce more concrete and effective measures to ban smoking in the city in the future," said Huang.

"Guangzhou should ban all cigarette advertising and increase fines on those who violate the city's anti-smoking rules and regulations."

The city passed a new regulation in September that allows law enforcement personnel to fine people for smoking in public places without first warning them.

According to the city's anti-smoking rules and regulations, people who light up in non-smoking areas in Guangzhou will be hit with on-the-spot fines of 50 yuan ($8).

"But only 155 people have been fined so far," said He Jingqing, deputy director of Guangzhou Committee of Urban Management.

He admitted the new rules have had little effect because of an inability to enforce the law in some areas and strong resistance among smokers.

"The law enforcers usually find it difficult to collect the evidence to fine the smokers," he added.