China / Society

Survey: Big support for Beijing smoking ban

By Wang Qingyun ( Updated: 2014-04-25 20:49

An overwhelming majority of people in Beijing support the city's latest legislative effort to control indoor smoking, according to a survey.

More than 96 percent of 8,300 residents surveyed said they supported the comprehensive indoor smoking ban suggested by the city's health and family planning commission.

The commission formulated a draft recommendation based on the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, said Wu Shuyan, an official of the Beijing Patriotic Health Campaign Committee, on Friday.

The survey was commissioned in early April in cooperation with several government departments. The commission has primary responsibility for tobacco-control efforts in the city.

Unlike the current tobacco-control regulations, which took effect in 1996 and which only ban smoking in eight types of public places, the draft calls for a comprehensive ban on smoking in all indoor public places, including workplaces and public transportation of all types.

At this stage, the draft prohibits the creation of designated smoking areas indoors. But the question remains under discussion — for example, whether hotels can designate rooms for smokers.

Under the draft regulation, "indoor" means any space covered by a roof or enclosed by two or more sides, including an elevator, corridor, staircase or bathroom.

"Public place" means any place that people gather to shop, dine, receive overnight accommodations or seek services such as medicine, education, entertainment and bodybuilding.

All workplaces would be smoke-free, including those of government, business or other organizations.

Smoking would be banned in many outdoor spaces as well, including places offering education to people under age 18, and seating areas at sports venues.

Health inspectors — professional staff of the city's health inspection department — would enforce the ban and have authority to fine violators 50 to 200 yuan ($32), according to the draft.

Inspectors could fine a business owner a maximum of 10,000 yuan for failing to dissuade people who are smoking in a prohibited area controlled by the business.

Currently individuals in Beijing are fined only 10 yuan for violating smoke-free zones. Yet few people have been fined.

The government recruited individuals to inspect how the existing smoking regulation has been implemented at their own workplaces, but such individuals are not empowered to enforce the law, said Liu Zejun, head of the health campaign committee.

"Health inspectors are the ones who have the power to enforce the law, and also are experienced in inspecting the hygiene and health conditions of public places," he said, adding that shifting enforcement to health inspectors is one of the improvements brought by the draft regulation.

A new version of the regulation is expected to come out in the first half of 2015, Liu said in an earlier interview.

A number of cities, including Yinchuan, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Harbin, have issued their own smoking bans, but the new regulation formulated in Beijing, if approved, will be most in line with the WHO framework, said Wang Qingbin, an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

Enhanced supervision by the public is important to ensure compliance once the new regulations come out, Wang added.

"For example, the government should publicize how many places it has inspected and how much it has fined individuals and organizations who violated the regulations," he said. "Public supervision can force the government to enforce the law."

The committee's Liu noted, however, that the number of health inspectors is limited, and it's hard to cover the entire city. He proposed wider involvement.

"We hope the government departments overseeing different industries will all take part in the inspections," he said.

In 2007, the city's health authorities and the transportation administration asked taxi drivers to abstain from smoking in their cabs and tell passengers who are smoking to do the same.

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