As we seemed a little bit skeptical about the recently announced citywide indoor smoking ban (skeptical about it working out, let us reiterate, not skeptical about the need), we were invited to a conference in Wangjing SOHO today where the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the launch of their #RUFREE# campaign ('Are you free’), or 你有控吗 in Chinese. The main aim of the campaign is to question your own role in creating smoke-free environments and to create a community-wide desire for reduced smoking in public, and private, places.

The conference kicked off with a health panel discussion featuring WHO Representative for China Dr Bernhard Schwartländer; SOHO Corp President Pan Shiyi; Beijing Director-General Fang Laiying; Swedish Ambassador Lars Fredén; and actor and restaurant owner Ren Quan.

The discussion was focused around the harms of smoking. For example, in a room with 20 people, if three smoke, the PM 2.5 levels in said room can reach up to 600. If five people smoke, the PM 2.5 levels can reach 1,200, and with all 20 people smoking, PM2.5 levels are estimated to be at 5,000 (to see this in action, go to any of the smoking areas at the Beijing Capital Airport).

Fredén explained Sweden’s situation, where a smoking ban was implemented in 2005. He mentioned that many people opposed the ban initially, but that he now estimates 90 percent of people are in favor. Fang agreed and said he believes that the situation in Beijing will be the same. He even hoped that Beijing’s situation will be better, and that people use Beijing as a model for smoke-free living.

The campaign involves celebrities such as actress Wang Yan, singer Zhang Liangying, and National badminton player Bao Chunlai. Though not exactly household names amongst expats, the celebrities drove the local crowd at the press conference a little bit wild.

To summarize: famous people also agree that smoking indoors is a bad idea, and posters will be disseminated via social media and by the local and national governments to promote a smoke-free city and tobacco control policies.

“We want to see the public embrace the fight against tobacco in the same way China has embraced the war on outdoor air pollution,” Schwartländer said.

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Photos: Margaux Schreurs, World Health Organization

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