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Beijing’s Smoking Pollution To Remain Cloudy

The Province – 15th April 2008

Vancouver isn’t the only place where banning smoking in bars and restaurants results in a fog of complaints.

It is a difficult challenge, even in Communist-run China.

And Chinese officials appear to have have softened a plan to restrict smoking in Beijing restaurants, bars and internet cafes during the Olympics, citing concerns from business owners.

According to China Daily, separate smoking rooms will be required instead of the ban, starting May 1.

“It is difficult for us to control smoking in restaurants. It’s just part of the culture,” puffed Zhang Peili, an official with the municipal government’s legislative affairs office. “”Originally, we wanted restaurants to keep 70 per cent of their areas smoke-free, but owners of Chinese restaurants – both big and small – worried the plan would hurt their business.”

The city had previously promised “a smoke-free Olympics.”

The rule change means only government offices, schools, museums, hospitals and sports venues will be designated as totally smoke-free areas.

Major cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao are also mulling amending laws on public smoking as part of a nationwide campaign in the run-up to the Olympics.

In Hong Kong, which banned smoking in restaurants on Jan. 1., 40 per cent of restaurants reported their business was down as a result.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis in October and launched a drive targeting businesses and residents last year.

Smoking is banned in cinemas, gymnasiums and other enclosed public places in Beijing although the rules are not strictly enforced.

The new regulations extend smoking bans to sport venues and fitness centers, but allow smoking away from “service areas” at restaurants, bars, clubs and parks. Hotels would be required to provide non-smoking rooms.

The Chinese are among the world’s most enthusiastic smokers, with a market of about 350 million.

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