State body orders restrictions on cigarettes on screen

China is introducing guidelines to limit the amount of onscreen smoking, the latest effort to curb the habit in a country that makes and consumes more tobacco than anywhere else.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has ordered producers to show smoking only when necessary for artistic reasons and to minimize plots involving tobacco.

Minors under 18 can’t be shown smoking or buying cigarettes, which are cheap in China, and characters may not smoke in public buildings or other places where smoking is banned.

The China National Tobacco Corp., the monopolistic state-run cash cow, paid $75 billion in taxes to the government in 2009. It produced 2.3 trillion cigarettes for the more than 300 million adults who smoke smoke. The World Lung Foundation estimates a million people will die from tobacco-related illness in China this year, a costly toll that’s expected to double by 2020.

China has banned tobacco company advertising and sports sponsorships, but it hasn’t introduced a law to ban smoking in indoor public places, and bars and restaurants are routinely cloaked in smoke.

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