China has ordered that smoking scenes in films and television series be restricted, amid concern it is failing to deliver on pledges to help its 300 million smokers kick the habit.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), China's media watchdog, called for "strict control" of smoking scenes and banned minors from being present in shots involving anyone lighting up.
Cigarette brands are banned from appearing in films and television series, and smoking scenes must be kept as short as possible, a circular posted on SARFT's website said Saturday.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, a survey conducted among 11,000 middle school students in Beijing showed nearly 33 percent wanted to try smoking after seeing actors lighting up on television.
Tobacco is the top killer in China -- the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer -- and smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke exact high medical and social costs.
Last month, Chinese and foreign medical experts issued a joint report warning that smoking deaths in the world's most populous country could triple by 2030.
The report said more than 3.5 million Chinese could die from smoking-related illnesses every year by 2030 compared with 1.2 million in 2005, if strong steps were not taken.
China became a party to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) five years ago.
Experts say it lags behind in its implementation of FCTC requirements, including a ban on indoor smoking, leaving people free to light up in restaurants and office buildings.