BEIJING (Reuters) - China's capital Beijing is proposing to ban the use of government money to buy cigarettes, either as gifts or to be provided at official functions, state media said on Friday, in the latest move to try and curtail smoking.
China, home to some 300 million smokers, is the world's largest consumer of tobacco, and smoking is a ubiquitous part of social life, particularly for men. Cartons of cigarettes are commonly given as presents or provided at formal events.
The Beijing government rules, currently in the proposal stage, would ban cigarettes being provided or given at any official event, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The rules also seek a ban on promotional sales activities or advertising for cigarettes and a ban on smoking in public places like train stations, hospitals and schools, with fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), the report said.
Beijing, along with other parts of China, already bans smoking in many public places, though the rules are generally ignored.
Xinhua did not say when the new rules may go into effect.
Tougher regulation of smoking is a priority this year, officials from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in January, adding that the agency was pushing lawmakers to toughen laws on tobacco use.
The ruling Communist Party said last year that officials must not light up in schools, workplaces, stadiums, and on public transport, among other places, so as to set a positive example.
($1 = 6.2125 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Li Hui; Editing by Ron Popeski)