June 25, 2009 - After several bans on smoking in public places in most Chinese cities went up in smoke. Shanghai and Luoyang are among six cities, including Wuxi (Jiangsu), Changsha (Hubei), Ningbo (Zhejiang) and Tangshan (Hebei), which joined Qingdao in a campaign called "Tobacco Free Cities" launched in the coastal capital of Shandong province yesterday, June 23rd. The seven cities have been picked from a pool of 34 cities and the program is expected to expand to more regions next year, said Wang Ke'an, director of ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development.
The five-year program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will provide the cities with funds to implement anti-smoking policies. Most of the seven cities that have joined the campaign already have smoking bans in place, but "hope to tighten controls and raise awareness" about the harmful effects of smoking.
Li Aihong, an official with the Luoyang disease prevention and control center, said her research found that 80 percent of people in her city are "forced to inhale second-hand smoke in their own homes. As most families now have only one child, we want to start with newlyweds, pregnant women and new mothers to urge their husbands not to light up at home for the sake of the baby."
As the world's largest cigarette market, with annual sales of 2 trillion cigarettes, China has more than 350 million smokers, about a third of the world's smokers.
Shanghai hopes to use the program to achieve its target of becoming a "tobacco free" city ahead of the World Expo, due to kick off in May next year. Shen Xiaoming, vice mayor of the metropolis, said they expect the program to help "create a tobacco-free environment for the people" of Shanghai. "Later this year, Shanghai will promulgate a local tobacco-control regulation to strengthen its anti-smoking efforts," he said.
Between June and September, experts from the US-based Emory University and ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development in Beijing will help the seven cities appraise their current tobacco control measures, and help them chalk out targets for the future.
Each city will have access to $100,000 a year, provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At the end of next June, the performance of each city will be evaluated to determine if the program must continue.
"What is the most important (for the success of the program) is the political will," said Jeffrey P Koplan, director of the Emory Global Health Institute.
Reference: 7 cities join in to kick killer butt by Xin Dingding, China Daily, 6/24/2009.