Asia Pacific / Science & Health

Beijing gets tough anti-smoking laws

Reuters

Beijing will ban smoking in restaurants, offices and on public transport from Monday, part of unprecedented new curbs — though how they will be enforced remains to be seen.

Health activists have pushed for years for stronger restrictions on smoking in China, the world’s largest tobacco consumer, which is considering further anti-smoking curbs nationwide.

Under the rules, anyone in China’s capital who violates the bans, which include smoking near schools and hospitals, must pay 200 yuan ($32.25). The current fine, seldom enforced, is just 10 yuan ($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 10,000 yuan ($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 100 meters of primary schools and kindergartens, according to state media.

Smoking is a major health crisis in China, where more than 300 million smokers have made cigarettes part of the social fabric, and millions more are exposed to secondhand smoke. More than half of Chinese smokers buy cigarettes at less than 5 yuan (80 U.S. cents) a pack.

Parliament passed legislation last month banning tobacco ads in mass media, public places on public transport and outdoors. Many Chinese cities have banned smoking in outdoor public places, but enforcement has been lax.

Bright red banners, typically used to display government slogans, have been posted around Beijing with anti-smoking messages. The city has also set up a hot line on which violators can be reported, the China Daily reported.

The names of people and companies who violate the rules more than three times will be posted on a government website for a month, state radio said.

Anti-tobacco advocates said they were more confident in the government’s will to enforce the bans after a series of tougher measures in recent months, including a bigger tobacco tax.

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