China’s smoking ban has begun as expected, that is, largely ignored by the population addicted to tobacco.
Smoking has been outlawed in enclosed public spaces but there’s been no campaign to publicise the ban.
And in the absence of a programme to highlight the dangers of smoking, there is widespread ambivalence in China to the potential health risks.
In Beijing, Zhang Zhiqiang said: ‘I will die if I quit smoking. Plus, it’s hard to do business without smoking. Presenting cigarettes to others is a huge part of our culture.’
But Zhang Liyuan disagreed. ‘Those who smoke in public indoor places should think about children, the elderly, and pregnant ladies who became victims of their filthy behaviour,’ she said.
A third of the world’s smokers live in China, 350-million people.
And the country produces more than 40 per cent of all the cigarettes on the planet.
With such an ingrained smoking habit, those trying to enforce the ban are coming up against a brick wall.
Xiang Fan, chief security officer at a major transport hub in Beijing said: ‘We try to stop every smoker we spot in this hall, but usually those who are caught react very strongly, and give us a hard time. I think it will be a long and arduous process.’
More than a million people die in China from tobacco related disease, and public health experts believe that could triple by the year 2030.