More teens are smoking in Beijing, where the number of primary and middle school students picking up the habit has more than doubled from previous years, a survey has found.
The survey, conducted by Beijing's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every two years since 2005, recently polled nearly 40,000 students across the capital on their smoking behavior last year.
The poll showed 17 percent of students at the primary and secondary level picked up cigarettes last year, up from 7 percent in 2005.
Among the respondents, 23 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls tried smoking in 2008, compared with 11 percent of boys and 3 percent of girls in 2005.
The survey also found 51 percent of vocational high school students tried to smoke last year, 11 percent higher than in 2005.
"Influenced by television, magazine and other public media, and environmental factors, more and more teenagers are picking up cigarettes," Zhao Tao, the disease control section chief of Beijing health bureau, said at a press conference Tuesday.
The survey found that:
* 83 percent learned about smoking and health information from television
* 70 percent from teachers
* 65 percent from parents
* 57 percent from posters
* 56 percent from newspapers
Wang Guan, a school health official of Beijing CDC, told China Daily that most teenage smokers are light smokers, with 77 percent smoking fewer than five cigarettes a day.
But the age when teenagers smoke their first cigarette is getting younger, she said.
Some parents seem to be unconcerned about their children adopting the bad habit.
"I'm not worried about my 16-year-old son getting into smoking," said Chen Qing, a 46-year-old Beijing cab driver who has smoked 10 cigarettes a day for 20 years.
Chen said that his son, Chen Xiaoyue, tries to persuade him to quit smoking every time he picks up a cigarette at home.
In 2008, the city had about 1.2 million primary and middle school students, and about 71,000 vocational high school students, according to Beijing municipal commission of education.
"Preventive education plays a important role in convincing adolescents not to smoke," said Lu Bin, senior communications officer of World Lung Foundation.
Media should shoulder some of the responsibility by not presenting material that would entice them to smoke, she said.
This year, Beijing will organize several health education activities on tobacco control, involving a tobacco control poster competition, community-level communication and the launch of a website promoting a smoke-free atmosphere (wuyan.bjhb.gov.cn).
Scientific research has found that smoking causes more than 25 serious diseases endangering life and health, including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke and impotence, Lu said.
"Illnesses resulting from smoking cause medical costs to increase, a loss of productivity, early death and a decrease in family income. These things lead to tremendous harm to the family and society," she said.
Since last year, central and local governments have paid a lot of attention to the control of tobacco in a country with more than 350 million smokers.
In May 2008, the capital banned smoking in public places, including restaurants, hotels, offices, hospitals and schools, to meet China's pledge of a smoke-free Olympics.
In May, the Ministry of Finance raised production and consumption taxes on cigarettes to curb smoking.
Last week, 2010 Shanghai World Expo organizers turned down a 200 million yuan ($29 million) donation from a tobacco company to meet the promise of a healthy and smoke-free Expo. By Lan Tian (China Daily) Updated: 2009-07-29 07:18