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Smoker vs Choker: Large open-air smoking area in central Beijing triggers debate

(People's Daily Overseas New Media)    14:17, January 08, 2019

Located on Wangfujing Street, a crowded and busy scenic spot in Beijing, sits a 70-square-meter open-air smoking area—the largest and the most “deluxe” one among its peers in the Chinese capital, but its presence is also controversial.

The program is called “Yanker,” which shares the pronunciation of “Yan Ke” in Chinese, which means people who smoke cigarettes. It is equipped with 18 stainless-steel seats and includes 13 stainless-steel ashtray poles.

As it is located right along the emergency evacuation route of nearby shopping malls, the smoking area looks garish and some tourists mistake it as a resting place, with some even bringing their children to find a seat.

The installation quickly triggered debate online, with some calling it disturbing for being located in a public place, worried that it will do harm to underage travelers in the area, where tens of thousands of people visit every day.

But others have shown a more welcoming attitude toward such a smoking areas. “I don’t think it’s too bad. But it would be better if a canopy is installed so the smoke and smell doesn’t spread everywhere,” a netizen commented.

“We have the right to express our dissatisfaction, regardless of how or why it was built. Even if there is plenty of money to continue the program, they still can’t pour money into something that’s wrong,” said Cui Xiaobo, the deputy secretary general of Beijing Tobacco Control Association (BTCA).

Beijing banned smoking in public in 2010 and a nationwide ban came into effect in 2014, restricting all smokers indoors. Smokers who violate the regulation can face a penalty of up to 500 yuan ($72.9). The ban, however, does allow for smoking areas to be set up, which must be covered and located in an area that is relatively far from crowds. They must also include a sign warning about possible health hazards.

Beijing health authorities said the open-air smoking area violates the regulation and is also poses a potential fire hazard for its location along an evacuation route. However, the strictest punishment for such violations is a rectification order, The Beijing News reported.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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