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As Olympics Near, Beijing Issues Smoke-Free Directives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 10, 2008

Beijing today released the text of the smoke-free directive that will go into effect in the city on May 1, 2008. With this directive, which significantly strengthens the city’s restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces, Beijing has taken an important step to protect public health and deliver on its promise of a tobacco-free Olympics.

The directive will help to protect the city's 16 million residents and workers, as well as Olympic competitors and visitors, from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. It will help ensure that one of the legacies of the Olympics is a healthier Beijing and a healthier China.

The directive, a draft of which was released for public comment in January, for the first time completely prohibits smoking in such public places and workplaces as

  • primary and secondary schools and vocational middle schools
  • offices and meeting rooms (and canteens, corridors, elevators, and lavatories) in government units, associations, enterprises and public institutions
  • cultural institutions such as cinemas, concert halls, and art galleries
  • all indoor areas of medical facilities
  • indoor stadiums and gymnasiums, and the competition and spectator areas of open-air stadiums and gymnasiums, and
  • indoor platforms and stations for public transportation.

The new directive also for the first time restricts smoking in restaurants and bars and hotels. In addition, the directive continues the city’s 1995 ban on smoking in a variety of other venues, such as public transportation, childcare centers and kindergartens, and the service halls of shops, banks and post offices.

Four months before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the directive demonstrates that China is taking seriously Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2004 pledge to host a tobacco-free Olympics. The directive will help to improve health throughout China by serving as a catalyst for other national, provincial and municipal efforts to reduce the devastating toll of tobacco. Shanghai has already announced ambitious plans for tobacco control legislation to be presented to the Shanghai People’s Congress in early 2009.

Read the Chinese text of the smoke-free directive in the Beijing Daily >>


With 350 million smokers – a third of the world’s total - China suffers about a million deaths from tobacco each year. According to the Chinese Ministry of Health, more than 540 million Chinese are harmed by secondhand smoke, with children and women the primary victims.

Through its ratification in 2005 of the World Health Organizations’ tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), China has committed to implementing effective measures to reduce tobacco use. These include smoke-free public places and workplaces, larger health warnings on cigarette packs, higher tobacco taxes, bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship, and more public education about the dangers of tobacco use.

Beijing joins a growing international movement to protect public health from the dangers of secondhand smoke by requiring smoke-free workplaces and public places. Nations that have adopted strong smoke-free laws include: Bermuda, Bhutan, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. Cities that are or soon will be 100 percent smoke-free include New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Mexico City.

Public health authorities worldwide have concluded that secondhand smoke poses a serious threat to human health and causes diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. Health authorities have also concluded that the only way to provide effective protection from secondhand smoke is by requiring smoke-free workplaces and public places.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that tobacco use will kill 5.4 million people this year and will claim one billion lives this century unless urgent action is taken.