China's most famous smoker, senior leader Deng Xiaoping, ran up against the Philippines' most famous anti-smoking advocate, President Corazon Aquino, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Saturday.

"Mind if I smoke?" the 83-year-old Deng asked at the start of their talks.

"I cannot say no to you, because I am not the leader of this country," Aquino responded as Deng lit up. "But in the Philippines for Cabinet meetings, no smoking" is allowed, she added.

Deng, laughing, recalled that at the recent National People's Congress session he had started smoking and "a deputy to the congress handed over a piece of paper criticizing my smoking. I violated the regulations of the NPC, so I stopped."

Aquino, who reportedly suffers from asthma, has imposed strict prohibitions on smoking in her home as well as at her Cabinet meetings.