Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

After 100 days, Chinese capital struggles to kick its smoking habit

Zhuang Pinghui

Toughest ban yet has raised public awareness but doesn’t have enough inspectors to enforce it

Shao Ning, a property agency executive and compulsive smoker, has felt the pinch over the past 100 days since Beijing started its toughest smoking ban.

“I used to meet people in coffee shops and smoke while we had meetings. Now I can’t. Even the airport removed all smoking areas. It’s all very inconvenient,” said Shao, a chain smoker.

But Shao said he could still light up in small restaurants and hardly anyone complains. He gave up smoking in his office after a security guard in the building asked him to smoke outside, but recently saw some people had started smoking in corridors and were ignored.

The capital rolled out the ban on June 1, forbidding smoking in restaurants, offices, on public transport and in any public place with a ceiling. Lighting up in open areas near schools and hospitals is also banned.

While the tough tobacco control campaign boasts a high level of public awareness, enforcement, especially in offices and restaurants, remains an issue.

49%: The smoking rate of Chinese men aged over 15. The rate for women is 2%.

In the past three months, officials have received almost 8,000 complaints about indoor smoking violations in the city, of which 70 per cent concerned smoking in office buildings, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Liu Hui, director of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said enforcement officers could barely keep up.

“There are between 1.3 to 1.7 million companies here and 4 million smokers. We receive more than 100 telephone complaints a day. Our officers can hardly meet that demand,” Liu told the West China City Daily.

Staff carried out more than 20,000 inspections, in which 3,100 companies were warned and more than 1,600 people caught smoking. Some 380,000 yuan in fines were meted out to 144 companies and 360 individuals, the toughest punishment so far in cities that ban smoking in public. Offenders face fines of 200 yuan, a sharp rise from the previous 10 yuan penalty. Restaurants also face fines of up to 10,000 yuan for failing to stop smoking on their premises.

Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the think tank Research Centre for Health Development, called the raised public awareness of the smoking ban in Beijing a “landmark achievement”, but said it was impossible for the government to enforce it alone.

Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organisation’s representative in China, said the ban had been enforced effectively and hoped that Shanghai – and ultimately the whole country – would follow suit.

More than 11,000 volunteers, aged from 14 to 81, will promote and help carry out the ban.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>