No ifs or butts: China launches fresh attempt to ban smoking

Strict rules initially covering Beijing include ban on lighting up in indoor public places

A worker smoking during a break at a demolition site in Beijing. Data shows that about 1.5 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year in China, where there are 300 million smokers. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

A worker smoking during a break at a demolition site in Beijing. Data shows that about 1.5 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year in China, where there are 300 million smokers. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

 

If at first you don’t succeed . . . China, the world’s heaviest smoking country, will launch its latest attempt to stop people smoking on Monday when it implements its strictest tobacco regulation to date.

The ban, which will initially cover the capital Beijing and later go nationwide, will include smoking in all indoor public places – including restaurants, bars, hotels, and offices.

Some outdoor spaces at public places, such as kindergartens, primary and middle schools, historical and cultural sites, and maternal and child health facilities, will also be required to be 100 per cent smoke-free.

Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in Beijing will also be banned.

There are more than 300 million smokers in China and tobacco revenues amounted to up to 10 per cent of government revenues in 2013, but the anti-smoking lobby is growing powerful.

Data from China’s Centre for Disease Control shows that about 1.5 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year in China.

The restrictions were adopted in November by the Beijing People’s Congress and, on paper, are among the toughest of their kind.

Shops within 100 metres of schools or kindergartens will not even be allowed to sell cigarettes.

Beijing airport said it will shut all its smoking rooms, to be replaced by 11 outdoor smoking areas on June 1st.

Anyone breaking the new rules faces a fine of up to 200 yuan (€30), a 20-fold increase from the current 10 yuan penalty.

Previous bans have been ignored, but according to a report on the CNrencai.com website, the city government in Beijing has launched an account on the WeChat social network that will allow people sitting in second-hand smoke to report it to the authorities.

The basic rule under the latest attempt to stop smoking is that “wherever there is a roof, it is forbidden to smoke. Even in some areas without a roof, you cannot smoke”.

Liu Zejun, office director of the Beijing municipal heath promotion committee, said that in public areas there had been a 99 per cent success rate in stopping people from smoking.

After the new rules are implemented, managers of public areas will be required to report smokers and are not allowed to turn a blind eye to it. The authorities will check reports, and if they find that a particular area has had a number of reports, they will punish the danwei, or work unit, in question.

“I hope other cities will promote the same regulation. Smoking is your choice, but to oppose passive smoking is my choice. Complete non-smoking in public areas is an important symbol of an harmonious society,” one commentator, Ding James, wrote on the Sina Weibo microblog.

“We couldn’t say this is the strongest law in the world,” said Angela Pratt, of the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “But it’s certainly up there with the strongest, in that there are no exemptions, no exceptions and no loopholes on the indoor smoking ban requirement.”