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Breathing new force into smoke laws

SCMP – 28 March 2012

Beijing is weighing up amendments to regulations that would ban smoking in all indoor public places

Beijing city authorities are considering implementing a complete ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, a move that some see as the precursor to a similar ban nationwide.

The Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress has released draft amendments to the capital’s anti-smoking regulations for public consultation. They would prohibit smoking in lifts, corridors and underground passages in all public places, as well as at outdoor bus stations and sport venues.

The draft marks out indoor workplaces, public transport waiting rooms and vehicles, and indoor public places as areas that must be free of smoking. Smokers would also face fines of between 50 and 200 yuan for smoking in places such restaurants, museums and hospitals, where smoking has been banned since 2008. The current fine is 10 yuan.

Managers of public spaces may also be fined between 10,000 and 30,000 yuan if they fail to persuade smokers to put out their cigarettes.

Another amendment would require tobacco retailers to halt sales on World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31 each year.

Progress on tobacco control has been slow in Beijing, even though the city introduced its first ban on smoking in public places in 1995 and another in 2008 ahead of the Olympics.

On May 1 last year, the mainland introduced a ban on smoking in indoor public places. However, workplaces were not included and the ban, initiated by the Ministry of Health, has proved difficult to enforce. A survey in November found that just one in five restaurants in Beijing was obeying the rules.

“China has hundreds of millions of smokers and many tobacco producers are state-run. I don’t think the ban can work effectively,” said Ginessa Huang, who works as a clerk in Shenzhen, said. “I’m a second-hand smoker every day in the office.”

Shanghai introduced a smoking ban covering most public places in 2010, but it is not well enforced. Harbin , the capital of Heilongjiang province , banned smoking in all public indoor areas, including workplaces, in May last year.

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