City to ban smoking in public

By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-30 07:04

GUANGZHOU: Smoking in public places like cinemas and department stores will become a thing of the past in this southern city under a forthcoming tobacco-control regulation.

The regulation, which could take effect by the end of this year, will also make Guangzhou eligible for the title "National Sanitary City", as tobacco control is one of the major factors weighed in the selection of such cities, said Zhu Shunxian, vice-chairman of the Guangzhou tobacco control association, during a meeting last week.

This city is home to an estimated 1.68 million smokers, so clamping down on smoking will be no small task. However, the municipal government will adopt an incremental approach to ensure the regulation is implemented smoothly, Zhu said.

The draft has been revised three times since work started on it in March 2006. Businesses and community representatives were recently invited to comment on it.

According to the draft, the smoking ban will cover 13 public spaces, including cinemas, concert halls, ballrooms, game rooms, stadiums, libraries, museums, department stores, bookstores and the waiting rooms at public transportation facilities.

Smoking on public transit and in other public spaces will also be prohibited or restricted.

The draft regulation clearly stipulates that primary and middle school students are not allowed to smoke, and that selling tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 is illegal.

Meanwhile, radio broadcasters, TV stations and print publications are not allowed to carry advertisement for tobacco.

The government's legal affairs office and the local legislative body are currently going over the draft, Zhu said.

The government will solicit public views on the matter during the rest of the year. The final draft should be ready by the end of the year, but there is no timetable for when the regulation could be passed, Zhu added.

Zhu's association and the Guangzhou patriotic health committee played leading roles in coordinating the draft.

Many of the people who took part in initial consultations on the regulation were concerned about enforcing it.

There are at least four sources of uncertainty that could affect enforcement, they said.

First, how to define a smoker; second, how to determine where smoking should be curbed; third, which government body should carry out enforcement; and finally, what the fines will be like.

The Law on Administrative Penalty stipulates that on-the-spot penalties should be no bigger than 20 yuan ($2.60), which most of those consulted said was too small.

However, another local regulation, this one governing public health issues, carries fines of up to 100 yuan.

It could be used to give teeth to the tobacco control regulation, said Cheng Yuehua, a lawyer who participated in the drafting of the new law.

The latest figures from the Guangzhou disease prevention and control centre indicate that more than half of the city's male residents are smokers. Twenty-seven percent of 10-to-20-year-olds smoke.

Zhu said it was the right time to launch an anti-smoking law because many restaurants and public facilities already have non-smoking areas, and some public places, including banks, cinemas, buses, gas stations and airports, have successfully banned smoking.

However, many smokers say it is difficult to stop smoking in restaurants and entertainment places.

So far, 88 cities in 14 provinces on the mainland have issued local anti-smoking laws.

Hong Kong implemented Asia's most strict anti-smoking law at the beginning of this year. Offenders face fines of up to HK$5,000 ($640).

(China Daily 05/30/2007 page5)

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