A storeowner who sold cigarettes to underage students recently paid a fine of 30,000 yuan ($4,400) to the local authority in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province, marking the settlement of the first case involving the selling of cigarettes to minors in China, where it is illegal.
The storeowner’s punishment will act as a deterrent to prevent other sellers from profiting illegally from underage smoking, and will help reduce teenagers’ buying and smoking cigarettes. For teenagers, lack of self-discipline and the absence of family or school discipline may coalesce to expose them to cigarettes, a problem that needs to be tackled with joint efforts from the whole society.
Relevant surveys have shown an increase in the proportion of underage smokers in China, making it urgent to prevent teenage smoking. School teachers should play an exemplary role and ban underage students from smoking. But since students may still smoke in public areas outside of schools, regulations should also be strengthened and appropriate penalties applied.
In this regard, punishing those selling cigarettes to teenagers severely is only the first step. More appropriate measures should be taken in view of foreign practices such as attaching students’ scholarships to the banning of cigarettes. Laws should also be strengthened to stop teenagers from smoking and hold their guardians accountable.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in People's Daily on July 20)