Peking — A large number of people in China, particularly young people, have give up smoking as a result of the first nationwide antismoking campaign in the country.
While statistics are not available, smoking seems a great deal more prevalent in China, especially among the young, than in Western countries where there is a considerable history of antismoking campaigns.
This is partly blamed on the so-called Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), during which millions of youth responded to Chairman Mao Tse-tung's call, "zaofan youli" (it is justifiable to rebel).
Until then, middle-school (high-school) and university regulations forbade smoking. But one of the first manifestations of the student rebellion was apparently the assertion of the freedom to smoke.
"During the time of the 'gang of four' (headed by Mao's widow, Jiang Qing), said the Guangming Daily recently, "students at Qinghua University (often called the M.I.T. of China) smoked heavily, some even during classes."
"Now," the newspaper continues, "nonsmoking has been made a rule, the number of smokers has gone down drastically, and no one is seen smoking during classes or at conferences."
The nationwide antismoking campaign was begun last July when the government ministers of health, finance, agriculture, and light industry issued a circular "on propagandizing the evils of smoking and control of smoking."
The campaign is already producing results. One example, according to the Guangming Daily: cadres at a commune in Yungji County, Shansi Province, decided to set an example by quitting smoking themselves. It paid off. A large number of ordinary commune members have given up the habit.
A coal mine in Shandong Province went even further. People there banned smoking in conference halls, cinemas, and hospital consulting rooms.