Beijing starts implementing today tough rules that prohibit smoking in all indoor public places and many outdoor public places, China Daily reported.
The ban, the country’s toughest to date, covers primary and middle schools, seating areas of sports stadiums workplaces, public transportation, and hospitals that treat women or children.
Violators face fines of up to 200 yuan (US$32) while establishment owners will face penalties of up to 10,000 yuan.
The capital’s airport will also close three smoking rooms in its three terminals and open 11 smoking spaces outside. New outdoor smoking areas will be available at more than 600 bus stops around the city.
“Beijing has now set the bar very high — and we now look forward to other cities around China, and the world, following Beijing’s excellent example,” said Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization’s representative in China.
As the world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers, almost the size of the US population, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke each year.
Beijing alone has 4.2 million smokers, accounting for 23.4 percent of people aged 15 and above. They smoke an average of 14.6 cigarettes per day, according to a survey conducted by the Beijing Center for Disease Control last year.
More than one million Chinese people die from smoking-related diseases each year, according to official data.
The Beijing municipal government is training several thousand inspectors who will be responsible for inspecting venues and issuing fines, and thousands of community volunteers will also be mobilized to support enforcement.
While many welcome the tougher rules, others doubt if the ban can be strictly enforced.
Zhang Jianshu, president of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said it would be difficult to enforce the law in commercial establishments where smoking is prevalent, such as nightclubs.
“The key lies in business owners,” China Daily quoted Zhang as saying. “They have the responsibility to ensure no smoking within their establishments.”
According to a recent online survey conducted by Xinhua, only 17 percent of the 22,392 respondents believe the ban will be effective. Another 49 percent worry about its feasibility while 34 percent think it is more important for the country to reduce tobacco output.
On Sunday, World No Tobacco Day, Beijing was honored by the WHO for the city’s new smoking ban.
According to the UN agency, Beijing’s law is compliant with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and when fully implemented, will have a major impact on the health of Beijing’s millions of residents.
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