China's New Year blockbuster "Gone With The Bullets" was given an award of shame for excessive smoking as part of the country's latest anti-tobacco campaign.
The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control announced the "Dirty Ashtray Award" as it disclosed the results for an annual smoking scene review of films and television series.
The film by director Jiang Wen has 45 smoking scenes, the highest of all other films, showing one every 3.1 minutes. It contended with 30 of the most popular films over the past year, said Xu Guihua, deputy director of the association. Nine films and television series were given "No Smoking Scene Awards".
The association has been monitoring smoking scenes in popular films and television series in China since 2007 to encourage celebrities to take more social responsibilities not to expose too many smoking scenes in their works to prevent the minors from mimicking.
As the world's largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers, almost the size of the U.S. population, and another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke each year.
According to official data, over one million Chinese people die from smoking-related diseases annually.
The country is adopting its strictest measures in the latest tobacco-control efforts.
Apart from shame awards, China's top legislature in April adopted an amendment to the Advertisement Law, banning tobacco advertising on mass media, in public places, public vehicles and outdoors.
The consumption tax on cigarettes at the wholesale level was raised on May 10, a move expected to cut cigarette consumption by four to five percent and add 100 billion yuan to annual tax revenue.
Meanwhile, Beijing will pilot the country's toughest smoking ban starting June 1, prohibiting smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces, and on public transportation.
But despite multiple efforts, experts say challenges are still in the way.
Wang Chaocai, an official of the Ministry of Finance, said prices of the cigarettes are determined by the market. Whether the tax raise will entirely be passed on to retail prices is still unknown.
A shop owner at the Communication University of China in Beijing, said, cigarette prices in his shop have grown by one yuan per package on average after the price hike. "The sales have not been affected yet. Most of my customers are nearby residents and college students. It seems that they would not pay much attention to the slight rise of cigarette prices."
Liu Rongjun, a 21-years-old student at the university, said, "The price of the cigarette I used to buy has grown by over one yuan per package, but the prices for some brands have remained unchanged. I would choose some cheaper ones after the price rise."
Zhang Guodong, columnist of economic news portal www.ce.cn, said rising retail price of cigarettes will have a limited deterring effect on chain smokers.
Despite rising cigarette tax and price, it is even more important for the local governments to cut the scale of the tobacco industry and reduce their dependence on tobacco companies for revenue.
Additionally, doubts about the feasibility of Beijing's new smoking ban have been climbing as smokers are still seen puffing away in restaurants, schools and other public spaces in the city, regardless of previous smoking bans.
Liu said, "I don't think the ban will have much to do with me. Mostly I smoke in entertainment venues, bars for example. It will be hard to actually implement the ban in such places which usually lack effective supervision."
Xu said, "We have made secret investigations in some bars and found that the managers are unaware of the new regulations. More publicity and promotions about the ban are needed.
"After the ban takes effect, the city's law enforcement still needs to work out ways to implement the regulations to the letter and make the smokers who defy the ban get due punishment."
Wu Yiqun, executive vice director of ThinkTank, a Beijing-based anti-smoking advocacy group, said, effective implementation of the regulations should be based on solid public support.
It is important for the government to heighten public awareness of the harm of smoking and invite the public to supervise the law enforcement activities, he said.
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