Image: People smoke in Shanghai, China
People smoke on a Shanghai, China, street in February. China's health officials are pushing for new regulations requiring photos or other graphics on cigarette packs depicting the hazards of smoking.
updated 3/3/2009 4:00:06 AM ET 2009-03-03T09:00:06

China's health minister has urged doctors and medical workers to quit smoking to set an example to others as China struggles to stamp out the ingrained habit, the China Daily newspaper said Tuesday.

The state-owned newspaper said 56.8 percent of doctors smoke, the highest rate in the world, citing the China Preventive Medicine Association (CPMA).

"Medical workers and those who take decisions regarding people's health should take the lead to quit smoking and completely ban indoor smoking to set a good example for their patients and others who look up to them," Health Minister Chen Zhu was quoted as saying.

The association has launched a campaign to make medical schools, hospitals and associations smoke-free by the end of this year, the paper said. The campaign will be supported by 10 health associations and 10 universities.

Chen said international experience had shown that when doctors quit, others are also encouraged to give up.

The country has about 350 million smokers, the newspaper said. Getting people to quit is hampered by lack of legislation, policy implementation and awareness campaigns, Chen said.

Smoking is tightly woven into the fabric of daily life in China, the world's largest tobacco market, where 2 trillion cigarettes are sold every year.

More on China   |  Smoking

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