China capital to roll out tough anti-smoking laws

Sun May 31, 2015 1:07am EDT
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By Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing will ban smoking in restaurants, offices and on public transport from Monday, part of unprecedented new curbs welcomed by anti-tobacco advocates, 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.

"Restaurant staff have a duty to try to dissuade people from smoking," said Mao Qunan, of the National Health and Family Planning Commission. "If they don’t listen to persuasion, then law enforcement authorities will file a case against them."

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 five 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.   Continued...

A man smokes a cigarette outside an office building in Beijing, China, May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee