China has urged all hospitals to ban smoking by 2011, state media said Thursday, a move expected to crimp the habits of Chinese doctors, more than half of whom smoke.
The order is the latest step by authorities, anxious about a ticking medical time bomb, to get people to kick the habit in a nation that has more than 350 million smokers.
The health ministry has asked all "medical agencies, hospitals and disease control centres" to impose total smoking bans by 2011, Xinhua news agency said.
At least half of all medical institutions should be smoke-free by 2010, it said.
Just 20 Chinese hospitals had been certified smoke-free, it quoted an official from the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control as saying.
The report did not specify whether the new policy was mandatory.
About 56.8 percent of male doctors in China smoke, the highest such rate in the world, the China Daily newspaper said in March, citing the China Preventive Medicine Association (CPMA).
China is the largest producer and consumer of cigarettes in the world and records a million deaths a year from smoking-related diseases.
A report published in Britain's The Lancet medical journal late last year said "if present smoking rates continue, 100 million Chinese men will die between 2000 and 2050" of tobacco-related diseases.