A short amateur video of two kids smoking on a train was uploaded to one of China’s You Tube-like video sharing web sites Tuesday, quickly igniting an outcry and a lively discussion about China’s smoking problem – which seems almost impossible to tackle.
In the minute-long video, two young boys – probably three or four years old – are seen puffing and giggling while standing in the space connecting two cars on a moving train. (Such connections are usually a default smoking section on Chinese trains, although the doors connecting the cars are normally open.)
There’s no information about anyone’s identity or where the train was headed. It’s also not known whether the adults standing next to the boys are their parents, but they clearly do not try to stop the kids and joke around when one boy puffs smoke into the other one’s face. “Does he know how to smoke?” asks one passenger. Another man replies, “Yes, you see he can inhale!”
The clip sparked outrage from viewers in the video sharing section of Netease.com, one of China’s biggest web portals. “The two kids would be lucky enough to make their 30th birthdays,” one commenter wrote. “Their parents should be executed,” and “Will their parents be happy when their kids contract lung cancer?” were two other comments from angry viewers.
Smoking has long been one of the greatest health threats facing China – it is linked to the deaths of at least 1 million people in China every year. Smoking is entrenched as a social norm: an estimated 30 percent of adults in China smoke, that's the equivalent of about 300 million people – almost equal to the entire U.S. population.
In fact, cartons of cigarettes are considered a standard gift for men since 53 percent of the country’s adult men smoke. Banning smoking in public was brought up by legislators as early as 1995, but the efforts haven’t made any great progress despite new rules that are promulgated every year.
The latest initiative, announced last month, will ban smoking starting May 1 in all indoor public areas. But the tobacco industry is a major tax contributor in China, which may help explain the government’s sloppy control of the centuries-old habit.