Smoldering start to smoking ban

09:18, May 03, 2011      

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China's indoor smoking ban at public venues, which took effect on Sunday, seems to have failed to ignite action against cigarettes.

The ban issued by the Ministry of Health applies to places such as hotels, restaurants, bars and public transportation.

Given that no specific penalties or responsibility for enforcement have been set out in the legislation, Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the National Office of Tobacco Control, said the new ban "could hardly work well".

She urged authorities to enforce the ban and clearly define penalties for violators.

In Beijing, a special force is expected to enforce the ban, Li Yajing, a division director of the Beijing health bureau, told the Beijing News.

Currently, the mainland has more than 300 million smokers, statistics from the World Health Organization show, and about 1.2 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year, accounting for one-fifth of the world's total.

Meanwhile, an estimated 740 million people are exposed to secondhand smoke, mostly in places like restaurants, bars and workplaces, statistics from the Ministry of Health show.

"The ban, if well implemented, will effectively protect nonsmokers from smoking," said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development, a Beijing-based non-governmental organization that promotes smoking control.

She also conceded that it will take time given the huge number of smokers in China and the rarely challenged smoking-related social conventions, like cigarettes being a must for banquets.

"I know that the ban will do good to my health, but it's very hard for me to quit smoking indoors, especially when attending parties and wedding banquets," said Ren Hao, a heavy smoker from Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu province.

"My friends will give me strange looks if I refuse to smoke with them," said the 29-year-old. "Besides, distributing cigarettes has become a tradition in many Chinese places, and that can hardly change overnight," he added.

Wang Guangli, a manager of a restaurant in Beijing's Chaoyang district, told China Daily on Monday that some people still disregarded the ban and smoked in public.

"We will try stopping customers who smoke in our restaurant, but for those people who refuse to go outside to smoke, to be frank, we can do nothing," she said.

A manager from the Yinghua Hotel in Chaoyang agreed with Wang, saying that though they do not provide ashtrays in the hotel anymore, they will not compel customers to smoke outside.

"Asking customers to smoke in outdoor areas will certainly affect our business," said the manager, who asked to be anonymous.

Source:China Daily
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