100,000 will help smokers stub out
By Cui Xiaohuo
Updated: 2008-04-25 07:23

The Beijing government is looking to recruit a further 40,000 inspectors to help it stub out smoking in public areas from the start of next month, a health official said yesterday.

The city already has about 60,000 inspectors, but wants to increase the number to 100,000.

The majority will be workers at hotels, office buildings and other venues covered by the new smoking ban.

"The idea is that the inspectors should provide a good example by not smoking in their own venues," Sun Xianli, an official with the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee, which will oversee the enforcement of the ban, said at a press conference at the Olympic media center.

The inspectors will be expected to persuade people not to smoke on their premises, but they will not have the authority to issue fines, Sun told about 100 local and international journalists.

Venues that ignore the ban, however, will face a fine of up to 5,000 yuan, he said.

In a recent ruling the city government extended its ban on smoking in public to include sports venues and all indoor areas of government offices, transport stations, schools and hospitals.

The ban does not apply to restaurants, bars, KTV venues or massage parlors, but they are encouraged to provide separate areas for smokers and non-smokers.

Many officials and health experts, however, have said that the ruling is only a transitional stage ahead of major changes on tobacco control legislation.

Li Lingyan, deputy director of the city's legislative office, said the government is planning to rewrite its 12-year-old law on public smoking next year.

"Tobacco control is a major issue that concerns not only public health, but also environmental protection and social policy," Li said.

"But Beijing authorities are determined to introduce a blanket ban on smoking at all indoor public venues," she said.

Public hearings will be held before any changes are made to the law, Li said.

At the entrance to a subway station just outside the Olympic media center, a "No Smoking" sign is clearly visible beside a "No Vendors" notice.

Wang Ling, an inspector who works at a subway station near the Bird's Nest , said passengers will not be allowed to smoke inside the station.

"We won't fine them for smoking," she said.

"But we will do all we can to persuade them not to."

(China Daily 04/25/2008 page4)