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Beijing Drops Restaurants in Smoking Ban

By HENRY SANDERSON – Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing has backtracked on a proposed public smoking ban ahead of this summer’s Olympics, with a city official saying Monday that restaurants will no longer be included due to concerns it would hurt their business.

Lighting up in restaurants will be allowed after the citywide ban goes into effect May 1 as long as they have separate smoking and nonsmoking areas, said Zhang Peili, an official with Beijing’s municipal government supervising the ban.

Restaurants that do not comply will be fined $714, Zhang said, though she added that implementing the regulation will be “extremely difficult.”

“There is a Chinese saying that tobacco and alcohol always come together. This has developed into the Chinese people’s habit,” she said.

The China Daily newspaper reported Monday that bars and Internet cafes also would be exempt from the ban after originally being included. The newspaper said the government was worried a stricter smoking restriction on restaurants would hurt their business.

China is home to 350 million smokers — a third of the global total.

Beijing pledged to hold a smoke-free Olympics and last month proposed a smoking ban in government offices, sports venues, hospitals and museums. Last week, Chinese media reported it would also be extended to primary and secondary school campuses.

Last October, Beijing banned smoking in the city’s 66,000 taxis, threatening drivers with a $29 fine if they are caught.

In 2005, China ratified World Health Organization rules that urged it, within three years, to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship, put tougher health warnings on cigarettes, raise tobacco prices and taxes, curb secondhand smoke, prohibit cigarette sales to minors and clamp down on smuggling of cigarettes.

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