China’s fourth most populous city, Shenzhen, is now 100 percent smoke-free after a law banning smoking in all indoor public places came into full force on 1 January 2017.
The law to protect people from the harms of second-hand smoke was first introduced in March 2014, but with a 34-month grace period for entertainment venues. Now all bars, tea houses and massage parlours must also comply.
‘There has been overwhelming public support for Shenzhen’s smoke-free law, and strong compliance. This new phase of enforcement builds on a strong foundation,’ said Dr Gan Guan, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control. ‘We congratulate the government of Shenzhen for ensuring comprehensive implementation of this life-saving policy. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.’
Serious illnesses including lung cancer and coronary heart disease are caused by second-hand smoke. In children it causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, middle ear infections and acute lower respiratory tract infection, as well as exacerbating asthma. China has some of the highest smoking rates in the world: 49 percent of men and 2 percent of women (World Bank, 2012).
The Union has been supporting the Shenzhen Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention Centre with technical assistance for the last seven years as grantees under the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. In collaboration with partner organisations in the Bloomberg Initiative, The Union also supported Shenzhen’s municipal government to launch this new phase for their smoke-free policy: training additional enforcement teams to fine violators, mass media campaigns, mobilising volunteers to raise awareness and building systems to evaluate the law’s impact.
Shenzhen has a population of more than 20 million, and is the latest major city to enact a comprehensive smoke-free law, following Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The city-level success of these policies is building momentum for a national tobacco control law which would protect 1.4 billion people from the harms of tobacco use.
‘Smoke-free laws are popular and highly effective if well-enforced. But in order to bring smoking rates down from its current epidemic levels, China must enact other strong policies. Increasing tobacco taxes over the long-term and introducing plain packaging would help smokers give up and deter non-smokers from starting,’ said Dr Gan. ‘Lung health is of primary concern in China at present, with air pollution in the headlines daily. We know these tobacco control policies protect lung health. We urge the national government to act.’
Shenzhen’s smoke-free law has been well-implemented and has strong public support. Compliance rates are high: 87 percent in restaurants and 85 percent in office buildings. Globally, evidence shows that where smoke-free laws are well-implemented in public, people are less likely to smoke at home, which reduces the exposure of children to second-hand smoke.