Beijing pledged in 2008 to ban smoking in most public venues, including government offices, but enforcement has remained lax and no-smoking signs are frequently ignored.

"Smoking remains a relatively universal phenomenon in public venues. Some officials smoke in public places, which does not only jeopardized the environment and public health, but tarnished the image of party and government offices and leaders and has a negative influence," reads the circular.

“Party cadres must not buy tobacco using public funds, and those who break rules on cigarettes should be criticised and educated about their evil influence," the circular said. Leaders at all levels should deal with rule-breakers severely, it added, without detailing specific punishments.

The sale of tobacco products and advertisements will no longer be allowed in party and government offices. Prominent notices of smoking bans must be displayed in meeting rooms, reception offices, passage ways, cafeterias and rest rooms.

China is the world's largest cigarette producer and consumer. The number of smokers exceeds 300 million, with at least 740 million nonsmokers regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.

In 2003, China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and it became effective in January 2006. The FCTC requires a reduction in tobacco supply as well as consumption. The 12th Five-Year plan (2011-2015) promised to ban smoking in public places.

JPN/Agencies

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