BEIJING, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government on Wednesday released a tough smoking ban for all the country's schools.
According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Education, "nobody is ever allowed to smoke anywhere within primary and middle schools, kindergartens and secondary vocational schools."
These schools must have smoking ban signs put in conspicuous places and should not set up smoking areas. They must not seek sponsorship from cigarette brands or allow cigarette advertisements to appear on campus, according to the circular.
Stores in school are also prohibited from selling tobacco, with schools' principals to be held responsible for the ban's implementation.
The circular also bans smoking in any building in higher-learning institutes, but it allows the setting up of few open-air smoking areas.
Moreover, the circular asked schools to appoint smoking supervisors and establish an assessment system under which both teaching staff and students will be evaluated through their implementation of the smoking ban.
Schools failing to implement this ban well will be punished, according to the circular.
The move came a month after the country banned officials from smoking in public areas, including schools, hospitals, sports venues and on public transport.
The central leadership told officials to "take the lead" in tobacco control, though Chinese people are accustomed to images of their government officials holding a cigarette -- usually an expensive one.
China is the world's largest cigarette producer and consumer. Its number of smokers exceeds 300 million, with at least 740 million nonsmokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
In 2003, China signed the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. But it has been criticized for failing to fulfill the promise of reducing tobacco use.
China's tobacco industry generated a huge 956 billion yuan (157 billion U.S. dollars) in taxes and profits in 2013, up 10.5 percent year on year.
The Chinese government has made a public smoking ban one of its goals for the 2011-2015 period. Some cities have already enacted legislation on smoking in public places.