Planet China

Up in smoke

In our last issue we detailed how China’s tobacco monopoly had announced it was set to hit its target of selling 2.34 trillion cigarettes this year. Indeed, while other countries are seeing declines in smoking numbers, China Tobacco celebrated that it would sell 6 billion more cigarettes in 2018.

An unlikely ally in the sales push was a university professor at the Communication University of China in Beijing. Wang Meng, a visiting professor, sparked controversy this month when video showed him smoking during his lectures and encouraging students to light up too, claiming that the nicotine hit was “inspirational”. A student told news site Pear Video that Wang had told them during lectures that “his desk was another world where he could smoke – and if anyone else wanted to smoke with him, they could join him up there”.

Wang’s suggestion quickly stoked a backlash – smoking is banned indoors and in some outdoor public spaces in the Chinese capital. The university was quick to chastise him too. “The classroom is a sacred place. Wang’s conduct violates Beijing’s smoking control laws and a teacher’s code of ethics,” it wrote on its official Sina Weibo account.

Wang – a part-time professor who also works for state broadcaster CCTV – went into damage control, offering to resign his professorial post and pledging on social media to quit smoking. He also issued this apology: “It is wrong to smoke in public places, and it is even worse that I was smoking in a classroom. I did not care about students’ feelings, and did not consider the possible impact of second-hand smoke on my students.”

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