China relaxes smoking ban in Beijing restaurants

April 14th, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, April 14 (Xinhua) Restaurants, bars and Internet cafes in Beijing have been exempted from a proposed smoking ban at public facilities in response to concerns expressed by business owners. However, all those places have to have separate smoking zones from May 1 as part of the new regulation, China Daily reported Monday.

The paper quoted Zhang Peili, an official with the municipal government’s legislative affairs office, as saying that the changes had been approved last week.

Lawmakers and health experts said the difficulty in imposing the smoking ban underlines the grave challenges faced in a country with the largest number of smokers.

Beijing had originally wanted restaurants to keep 70 percent of their areas smoke-free, but the plan was dropped amid restaurant owners’ worries about potential business declines, Zhang was quoted as saying.

It was reported March 29 that a strict smoking ban from May 1 would expand to bars, restaurants and Internet cafes.

But the amended rule means only government offices, schools, museums, hospitals and sports venues will be designated smoke-free areas.

Despite the setback, health experts said Beijing has made a breakthrough in tobacco control.

“I think it is the right approach to go step by step. It is a brave move to ban smoking in government offices,” said Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the national tobacco control office.

Major cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao are also mulling amendments of laws on public smoking as part of a nationwide campaign in the run-up to the Olympics.

Health experts in Beijing said they hope the city is used as a springboard for drafting a national tobacco control law.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis last October.

The Chinese are among the world’s most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of 350 million. Ministry of Health said smoking causes 1 million deaths a year in China.

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