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More girls taking up smoking, study finds

By Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily)

08:14, May 23, 2013

More than 13 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 in Shanghai have tried smoking and almost 4 percent of them are smokers, according to a survey by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's public health school.

The study also found that there was a rising number of girls smoking.

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day next Friday, local health experts are calling for youngsters to be educated about the dangers of smoking and urging controls on tobacco advertising and restrictions on their access to cigarettes.

The survey, covering 40,000 students in the city's middle schools, vocational schools and universities from 2010 to 2012, studied the prevalence of smoking among young people and the major factors that led them to smoke.

He Yaping, the project leader, said teenagers were more likely to light a cigarette if their classmates or friends smoked.

Advertising, TV, the movies and statements claiming that low-tar cigarettes posed less risk also misled youngsters to take up the habit.

"Shanghai had cleared all outdoor tobacco advertisements by 2010, but the government should do more to reduce smoking like restricting tobacco sales in stores near schools, raising the price of tobacco and promoting health education in all walks of society," said Hu Zhaoming, vice director of the Shanghai Association on Smoking Control. "Medical staff and teachers should be role models in smoking control."

Hu said China must push smoking control across the entire nation, where tobacco production, sales and smokers make up more than a third of the world total. In Shanghai, about 35 percent of people over 15 years old are smokers.

"We are also lobbing local lawmakers to amend the city's anti-smoking law to have a complete smoking ban in all indoor public venues," he said.

Shanghai's anti-smoking law, which took effect on March 1, 2010, bans smoking in 13 types of venues such as kindergartens, museums and Internet cafes and requires smoking and non-smoking areas in entertainment venues, and larger restaurants and hotels.

On Sunday, more than 20 couples are to take part in a "wedding" ceremony at Century Park where they will promise that their own weddings will be tobacco free.

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