Stanford anthropologist assesses proposed smoking bans in China

cigarettesinshantou flickr mertonwilton
A cigarette stand in Shantou, China. Flickr/Merton Wilton

China’s State Council has put forth draft legislation that would ban smoking in public spaces, part of the government’s larger advocacy efforts to help curb tobacco use nationwide. Matthew Kohrman, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, said it’s a step forward but the ban’s long-term success would depend on local enforcement.

Despite popular belief, global cigarette production has tripled worldwide since the 1960s. Leading the surge has been China.

“China has become the world’s cigarette superpower,” said Kohrman, in an interview on National Public Radio’s program, Marketplace.

Moreover, local governments in China have become dependent on tax revenues generated from tobacco sales, thus reinforcing the cigarette’s ubiquity and ease of access.

China has implemented smoking bans in the past, but with varied success. Now rising healthcare costs caused by tobacco-related diseases are creating urgency for new regulations.

“Whether or not these new regulations will be enforced will, in the end, come down to local politics,” he said.

Matthew Kohrman is part of the Asia Health Policy Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, and leads the project, Cigarette Citadels, a peer-sourced mapping project that compiles more than 480 cigarette factories globally.

The full audioclip is available on the Marketplace website.