China chooses persuasion over fine to enforce smoking ban

July 19th, 2008 - 9:20 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 19 (Xinhua) Beijing health chiefs are insisting they will create public awareness and use persuasion to discourage smoking in public places, rather than use spot fines to enforce a ban to refurbish the city’s image during the Olympic Games next month. A city health official reiterated the policy just a day after national health authorities announced that more than 100,000 Chinese die every year from passive smoking.

In May, the city banned smoking in public places, including sports, venues, government offices, transport stations, schools and hospitals, and recruited 100,000 inspectors to ensure the ban was observed during the Games.

The regulation gave the inspectors powers to fine errant smokers 10 yuan if they lit up illegally, but no fines had yet been issued, said Rao Yingsheng, deputy director of the Patriotic Hygiene and Sports Committee of the Beijing health bureau.

Rao said the bureau had yet to transfer those powers to the inspectors because officials believed a policy of persuasion and education would be more effective in stopping people smoking illegally.

“It is legally valid to impose a fine on violators, but in practice persuasion is a good alternative,” said Rao.

“Most people will put the cigarette out when inspectors advise them to. Stubborn illegal smokers who won’t listen at all will be asked to get out of the public places,” Rao added.

Lighters are banned from Olympic venues, and smoking is entirely banned in the National Aquatics Center, or the “Water Cube”.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis last year and extended it to other public places in May this year. Restaurants, bars, karaoke venues and massage parlours are exempted, but these establishments are required to provide separate smoking areas.

More than 300 million people on the Chinese mainland smoke, about 25 percent of the population and one third of the world’s smokers.

About 54 million Chinese suffered from “passive smoking” and one million people died of smoking-related diseases each year, said Mao Jian’an of the health ministry.

“Mass media should work on spreading awareness of tobacco control and helping the public learn about this important issue,” Mao said.

The ministry has launched a nationwide campaign to encourage the mass media to publish more items that discourage smoking.

The government has pledged that all types of tobacco advertising and promotions will be stopped by 2011.

Smoking is the biggest contributing factor to cancer deaths in China, where 500 million are affected by second-hand smoke. The nation’s cancer death rate has risen 80 percent in the past 30 years, the Caijing Magazine reported.

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