BEIJING, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Health experts say they doubt a smoking ban in China will reduce the size of the country's smoking population.
The estimated 350 million smokers in China face a ban on public smoking, to be imposed by the Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission's by the end of the year, NBC News reported Saturday.
Previous attempts by the Chinese government to implement such bans have failed and the government said bans in 2008 and again in 2011 did not work because they took the public by surprise.
World Health Organization representative for China Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander said the success of any smoking ban depends on education.
"Awareness about the health hazards of smoking is low [in China]," Schwartlander wrote in an email to NBC News. "Only 25 percent of Chinese adults have a comprehensive understanding of the specific health hazards of smoking [and] less than one-third of adults are aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke."
Dr. Liu Mingqiao of Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing says it will be hard to enforce a ban.
"China is a big country and its population is enormous, so it's a really hard task for the government to push and enforce this smoking ban," Liu said. "The severity of the punishment will also be important because many people will think it's a little bit ridiculous if someone is slapped with a heavy fine for their smoking.
"People will also be asking whether government officials will also be punished -- like normal people -- if they are caught smoking," Liu said.