A quarter of high school students and 6 percent of primary students in Beijing have tried smoking, according to a report released by the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday, in advance of World No Smoking Day, which falls today.
A survey conducted last year, targeting students in schools and universities, shows that 25.7 percent of high school students have tried smoking and 9.1 percent smoke regularly. Among the polled primary school students, nearly 0.9 percent had smoked once in last 30 days.
Liu Zejun, director of the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee of Beijing, said that at least 40 million out of the 130 million young people under 18 across the nation have tried smoking and 15 million adolescents regularly smoke.
"And at least 40 percent of students have been exposed to secondhand smoke in the past 30 days. Although most of them know about the hazards of smoking or secondhand smoke, some students still ignore that," Liu said.
Authorities warned that more adolescents are taking up the habit much younger than before, and more girls have become regular smokers.
China Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed three cities in different regions of China, which found that the proportion of girls in high school smoking regularly are higher than that of female adults.
"Many signals show that we must minimize the number of young smokers. Teachers and parents should set a good example for teens by not smoking in front of them at school or at home, which is the most influential way of stopping adolescents from smoking," said Xiao Lin, an official from the smoking control department of the center.
Lin Yue, 15, a student from the High School Affiliated to Beijing University of Technology, Chaoyang district, said that students are rarely seen smoking on campus.
"If teachers see them smoking, they'll be punished and get a demerit, so they smoke after school on the street," Lin said.
Han Feng, an English teacher from No.44 High School, Xicheng district, said that there are some boys in his class who smoke regularly, but not so many.
"They have been found smoking in the toilets or outside campus during lunch break or after school," he said.
According to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, parents of six teenagers took their offspring to an anti-smoking clinic in the hospital last year.
China banned smoking in 16 types of public indoor venues, including hospitals and schools in May 2011, in an attempt to curb tobacco use.
Nearly 1.2 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year in China, accounting for one-fifth of the world's total number, the highest in the world, statistics from the World Health Organization show.