Beijing has issued its toughest laws yet against smoking in public around the city. The laws ban smoking around schools, hospitals, restaurants and public transport. It also bans the sales of cigarettes close to elementary schools and hospitals.
This is seen as a huge win for groups lobbying the Chinese government to make a cleaner outdoor environment for the public, especially children. Angela Pratt, from the WHO, says this is one of the stronger laws issued against tobacco since there are “no exemptions, no exceptions and no loopholes.”
Anti-smoking groups in China and CCTV were on board with promoting the new legislation. CCTV showed health inspectors in hospitals and restaurants making impromptu checks, who were trained thoroughly to enforce the new laws.
Banners were rolled out trying to dissuade people from smoking and China banned cigarettes from being advertised in mass media. A larger tobacco tax was also announced to be added to the current price.
A restaurant caught with people smoking indoors could risk losing their license and pay up to a $2000 fee. Individuals smoking in banned areas are fined $23. They could also suffer a generous helping of public humiliation — anyone caught more than three times will have their name end up on a government website. The China Daily also reported that hotlines will be made available for people to call if they find anyone violating the law.
“Restaurant staff have a duty to dissuade people from smoking,” said Mao Qunan, “if they don’t listen to persuasion, then law enforcement will file a case against them.”
Despite the progress the laws have made, many people wonder how strictly the new laws will actually be upheld. The current law fines people $1.00 and is rarely taken seriously. Cigarette packs are typically around $1.10 each and smoking is considered a great way to socialize with others in China.
A third of the world’s smoking population lives in China, most of them men. Many have developed lung cancer and more are at-risk.
Tobacco companies have been targeting the East Asian markets since the cigarette sales in North America and Europe have been dwindling in no small part to tough laws, thorough education on the dangers of smoking and public campaigns. A study made in 2009 found tobacco companies targeting Korean youth, as well as developing countries and minorities living in the US.
The World Health Organization, however, is hopeful that the Chinese government will establish a new trend in the region.