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Beijing Takes Historic Action to Reduce Smoking, Paves Way for National Law in China

Statement of Matthew Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 28, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – China's capital city of Beijing today adopted a historic tobacco control law that will make Beijing one of the world's largest smoke-free cities. Beijing's bold action will reduce smoking and secondhand smoke exposure in this city of 21 million and provides powerful momentum for urgently-needed nationwide action to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in China.

Beijing's new law requires 100 percent smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport and will take effect in June 2015, providing significant health benefits for millions of Beijing residents and workers. The law also prohibits most forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships.

Along with other smoke-free cities in China, a smoke-free Beijing sets the stage for China to adopt and implement strong national tobacco control measures.

Strong action to reduce tobacco use is urgently needed in China. With approximately 300 million smokers, China is home to the largest number of smokers in the world, and seven in 10 nonsmokers are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke. Each year in China, about 1.3 million smokers die from tobacco-related disease, and another 100,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. Public health authorities have found that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and stroke in non-smoking adults. Among babies and children, it causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory and ear infections, and more severe asthma attacks.

Smoke-free policies like Beijing's new law immediately improve public health by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, reducing cigarette consumption and helping smokers quit. These laws remain an easy and effective solution for countries and cities around the world to combat tobacco use. Beijing's new law should spur further action in China and around the world to address an epidemic that will kill one billion people this century without urgent action now.

By following Beijing's lead and adopting strong national tobacco control laws, China can fulfill its obligations under the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the world's only international public health treaty. Given tobacco's terrible toll in China, it is critical that the world's most populous country address the world's leading cause of preventable death. ​​​​​​​