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Local Officials in North China Quit Smoking to Fight Air Pollution

If you are planning to quit smoking, here is another reason to do so—it can fight air pollution, at least according to local officials in China’s northern Hebei Province.

Officials in Cangzhou city, Hebei vowed to quit smoking in front of a mass rally this week, claiming the pledge would help to solve air pollution.

It began when Tian Jinchang, the Party Secretary of Yunhe District, said that air pollution control and environmental protection should be more than just verbal commitments. “Quitting smoking is a concrete move. It’s also a commitment to ourselves, our families, and the environment,” Tian said.

Tian’s deputy echoed this sentiment, and to show his determination threw away a pack of cigarettes as he made the pledge.

The showy campaign backfired and attracted criticism from the press. An editorial on China Youth Daily’s website asked if the campaign was a joke.

“Though there is no denying that smoking could be harmful to people’s health and is the major source of indoor PM2.5 (fine particulate matter), treating smoking as the prime culprit of air pollution is a sign of ignorance,” the editorial read.

Cangzhou officials’ campaign against air pollution came amid great public concern over North China’s worsening air pollution. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s monthly air quality index ranking, most of the worst polluted cities are in the north of the country.

Public concern was further fueled by recent studies on China’s air pollution. A newly-published& study shows that people’s life expectancy has been reduced by 5.5 years as a result of the severe air pollution north of the Huai River. Earlier this year, data research revealed that air pollution in China was related to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010.

Though officials at the environment ministry dismissed these studies as untrustworthy, the government leadership seem more aware of the gravity of China’s air pollution. Premier Li Keqiang outlined ten guidelines for air pollution control at an executive meeting of the State Council last month.