BEIJING, May 28 -- At the end of a school day in Beijing's Chaoyang District on Wednesday afternoon, several young boys walked out of the gates of a junior high, lighting a cigarette immediately like old smokers.
Asked by Xinhua reporters where they bought the cigarettes, the boys pointed to a convenience store meters from the school gate.
Signs urging "do not sell cigarettes to minors" hang on the wall of the store, but a number of children could be seen reaching deals for packets of fags without being asked for ID.
The store owner doesn't care at all whether they are underage or not. "They could just as easily buy cigarettes at other stores if not at mine, so why not do the business? Anyway, no one is watching," he said.
Similar scenarios play out across China, despite the country banning cigarettes sales to minors and around primary and middle schools.
Some 6.9 percent of Chinese junior school students aged 13 to 15 smoke, and 80.5 percent of them were not refused when attempting to buy cigarettes over the past 30 days, according to a report issued on Wednesday, in the run-up to Sunday's International Children's Day.
Over 64 percent of students reported that cigarettes can be bought near their schools, said the report by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDCP).
The ban on underage sales seems just nominal.
Those who sell cigarettes to the young or around schools must be seriously punished to help children resist the temptation of tobacco, said Mao Qun'an, spokesman with the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Relevant laws must be fully implemented and their effect must be ensured. If these laws and rules are out of fashion, new ones must be drafted as soon as possible, said Mao.