China’s Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, the country’s cabinet, have ordered Communist Party officials to stop smoking in public.
“Smoking by some party officials not only endangers public health, but also damages the image of the party and the government,” the State Council said in a document released Sunday.
The new rules ban bureaucrats from smoking in government buildings, schools, hospitals, sports arenas and on public transportation.
Officials who ignore the ban may be punished by “criticism, education, party discipline or even the law, in especially serious cases,” the party said.
The party also told officials to ask other smokers not to light up in public.
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Public health advocates said the new rules could make an impression on Chinese smokers. “Until now, there has been no high-level pressure in curbing smoking,” Ray Yip, a public health expert who leads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in China, told the Wall Street Journal.
There are 300 million smokers in China, and tobacco causes 1.2 million deaths there each year.