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Smoking ban may reach all public buildings

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Smoking ban may reach all public buildings

Created: 2012-11-22 1:53:51

Author:Yang Jian

SHANGHAI plans to expand its smoking ban to all indoor public spaces, including office buildings, with tougher standards for violations, to improve compliance with the city smoke-control law put into effect in 2009, officials said yesterday.

The current law still permits smoking in some indoor areas, such as restaurant smoking sections, making it sometimes difficult to enforce, said Li Zhongyang, deputy director of the office of Shanghai Health Enhancement Commission, in a report to the Shanghai People’s Congress.

“Some 90 percent of local residents support imposition of a stricter smoking ban, according to an online survey done by the commission this year,” Li said.

Local law enforcement authorities tasked with smoking control requested the ban for all indoor areas to make enforcement easier, he said.

Office buildings of state-owned enterprises, government agencies and other public facilities including hospitals and campuses are now required to be smoke free. Smoking is also banned in Internet cafes, entertainment venues and hotels’ public areas under current legislation, but larger restaurants can provide designated smoking areas.

“Many restaurants are unwilling to forbid their customers to smoke for fear of affecting their businesses,” said Hu Xiaoming, a lawmaker who took part in several smoking compliance inspections this year. She said some local government buildings, especially those for governmental departments in suburban districts, failed to implement the ban, with some officials smoking during meetings or in their offices.

“An official even argued, ‘It is my right to smoke,'” she added.

“The fine should be more severe … Anyone found smoking in public areas should be fined,” said Qu Jun, deputy director of the local legislature’s law enforcement inspection team.

Fines won’t require warning

Smokers now can be fined up to 200 yuan (US$31.33), but only after they refuse to put out their cigarette.

While the new draft measure doesn’t call for raising fines, individuals could be fined without a warning beforehand, officials said.

The fines totaled about 313,000 yuan (US$50,237) this year with 179 public venues and 77 individuals cited.

The city imposed an indoor ban on smoking in most public places on March 1, 2009. The current law covers 12 kinds of public locations, including schools.

“The law has proved to be effective though there are still some inadequacies,” according to Li.

Some 76 percent of local public venues have signs displaying the hotlines to report anyone smoking illegally.

Citywide, more than 85 percent of local residents are aware of the law, according to the commission survey.

Smoking was reported this year at about 18 percent of locations where it is now banned, half that of three years ago, before the law took effect, officials said.

Officials said Internet cafes, entertainment venues and restaurants are most affected by illegal smoking.

Even though smoking in banned in public transportation, only half of local cabs are kept smoke-free, officials said.

Some 68 percent of taxi drivers ask passengers not to smoke but less than half of them insist if the request is refused, according to the commission’s survey.

“Public health experts at Fudan University have started to install PM2.5 monitoring machines in 30 local Internet bars for scientific study, and we will install more such machines to collect evidence and information for health education,” said Tang Qiong, an official of the city health commission.

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