China officials banned from smoking in public

Delegates arrive for the election of the new president of China during the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 14 March 2013 The Communist Party and the state council issued the circular for public officials

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China has banned its officials from smoking in public places, according to an official government circular.

Officials can no longer smoke in places like schools, hospitals, offices, public transport and public venues, Xinhua news agency says.

The Communist Party and the state council - the country's cabinet - issued the circular on Sunday.

China is considered the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, with an estimated 300 million smokers.

Last year, the Health Ministry issued a report saying that China accounts for about 40% of global production and consumption of tobacco.

"Smoking remains a relatively universal phenomenon in public venues," according to the circular, quoted by Xinhua.

"Some officials smoke in public places, which has not only jeopardised the environment and public health, but tarnished the image of party and government offices and leaders and has a negative influence.'

In addition, tobacco can no longer be sold at government and Communist Party offices, Xinhua says. Signs prohibiting smoking are also to be prominently displayed at these offices.

It was not immediately clear what the punishment would be for those in violation.

In 2011, China instituted a ban on smoking in public places like hotels and restaurants, but reports say that implementation has been lax.

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