BEIJING, March 3 China has offered its male doctors, more than half of whom smoke, some urgent medical advice -- quit the habit and set an example to the hundreds of millions of other smokers.
China is the world's largest cigarette producer and Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of about 320 million making it a magnet for multinationals and focus of international health concerns.
Chinese cigarettes are also among the cheapest in the world, with a packet costing as little as a few cents.
"Medical workers and those who take the 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 by the China Daily as saying.
About 56.8 percent of male doctors were smokers, it added. "It is the highest rate in the world," the newspaper said, citing the China Preventive Medicine Association.
"International experience has it that when doctors give up smoking, it encourages a lot of others to kick the habit," Chen was quoted as saying. (Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)