Northeast China city to ban indoor smoking with new law

09:03, May 26, 2011      

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Non-smokers in a northeast China city may soon be protected from second-hand smoke by a tough law.

Lawmakers in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, will vote Thursday on a local law on banning indoor smoking in public places.

The Regulations on the Control of Harm Posed by Second-hand Smoke, if passed, will be the strictest law of its kind in China, a country with the world's largest number of smokers and a deep-rooted smoking culture, said Wang Zhongmin, an official with the city's Office of Legislative Affairs.

The regulations outline penalties for smokers who light up in public places and harm others with their second-hand smoke, said a spokesperson for the municipal government of Harbin.

The highest fine would be 2,000 yuan (about 300 U.S. dollars), making it the harshest fine for a smoking offense in China, according to a Monday announcement about the draft.

Public places, as defined in the draft, will include movie theaters, hospitals, offices, hotels and restaurants.

Previous local regulations emphasized "smoking control," but the new law is focused on protecting the rights of non-smokers.

"We are not against smoking, but smokers should not be allowed to smoke at the cost of the health of others," said Wang.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), China has more than 300 million smokers. About 740 million people are affected by second-hand smoke, according to the center.

China ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003. The treaty took effect in January 2006, requiring signatories to create and implement new measures such as indoor smoking bans.

In March, the Chinese government included indoor smoking regulations in its 12th Five-Year Plan, indicating that more changes may be on the way.

Source: Xinhua
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