Beijing stubs out smoking in public spaces

Anyone caught smoking in venues including restaurants and offices will be fined $32 in city home to 4.2 million smokers.

    Tough anti-smoking measures have gone into effect in the Chinese capital, where smoking is now banned in restaurants, offices and on public transport.

    Under the law rolled out on Monday, anyone in Beijing who violates the bans, which include smoking near schools and hospitals, must pay $32.25. The current fine, seldom enforced, is just $1.60.

    Anyone who breaks the law three times will be named and shamed on a government website. And businesses can be fined up to $1,600 for failing to stamp out smoking on their premises.

    The government will also no longer allow cigarettes to be sold to shops within 100m of primary schools and kindergartens, according to state media.

    China has more than 300 million smokers, and more than 1 million people die each year due to smoking-related diseases, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

    More than half of Chinese smokers buy cigarettes at less than $0.80 a pack.

    Previous attempts to ban smoking in Beijing, the latest in 2011, ended in failure.

    Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said enforcement would be a major challenge but noted that the campaign around the new law had been more high-profile than previous anti-smoking measures.

    The Bird's Nest Stadium, the symbol of the 2008 Olympics, has been draped in vast anti-smoking banners and on Sunday, a large event was held to promote the ban.

    Bright red banners, typically used to display government slogans, have also been posted around Beijing with anti-smoking messages, the Reuters news agency reported. 

    At least 1,300 inspectors will be dispatched to enforce the ban, supported by volunteers.

    Parliament passed legislation last month banning tobacco ads in mass media, public places on public transport and outdoors.

    Beijing is home to about 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.

    Many other Chinese cities have banned smoking in outdoor public places, but enforcement has been lax.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Reuters


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