Objectives: In the run-up to all Chinese health care facilities becoming smoke-free, the feasibility of the new standard was assessed by monitoring its implementation in a sample of Chinese hospitals.
Methods: Forty-one hospitals across 20 provinces were asked to ban smoking inside the hospital and provide advice and referral to stop-smoking treatment. Smoking status of more than 24,000 members of staff at 21 hospitals was surveyed at baseline (April 2009) and at follow-up (October 2010). Surveys monitored implementation of several specific aspects of the new standard to identify potential barriers to nationwide implementation.
Results: All hospitals managed to implement the ban and most set up smoking cessation clinics. Routine recording of patients' smoking status proved more difficult to implement. The hospitals improved significantly in 8 out of 11 monitored policy parameters. Smoking prevalence among staff decreased from 14.8% to 10.7% (p < .001), suggesting an important collateral benefit of making hospitals smoke-free. Outdoor smoking areas facilitated the indoor ban. Staff education emerged as the key priority.
Conclusions: The smoke-free standard is feasible even in a country with a widespread acceptance of smoking inside health facilities. Several challenges need to be addressed when the new standard is disseminated across China.