Strict smoking control bears rich fruit three years on

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May 31 marks the 31st World "No Tobacco Day". It also marks three years since Beijing's city government put into effect China's strictest anti-smoking rules.

On June 1, 2015, Beijing rolled out strict new rules that prohibit smoking in indoor public places, workplaces, and public transportation.

Three years of efforts have yielded positive results, with many locals becoming aware of the progress of the smoking ban.

Beijing resident Dong Jing said she has noticed the government's efforts to promote the anti-smoking rules. She points to her husband as an example of a smoker who knows he is not allowed to smoke in many public places.

"I can always see signs banning smoking in noticeable places in restaurants. Some restaurants put aside specific areas for smokers. This is very considerate. And in well-managed office buildings, the smoking ban is thoroughly implemented," said Dong.

Zhang Jianshu, the chairman of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said the new achievements are connected with the wide engagement of the public.

"We have mobilized 15 thousand volunteers. Each Wednesday, we organize these volunteers to publicize the harm of smoking, and persuade people who smoke in the public to abide by the regulations,” said Zhang, “furthermore, we also coordinated with other departments to introduce a mini program on our WeChat account where people can report instances of smoking rules being violated on the spot by taking a photo and sharing their location."

Since the "Smoke Control Map" was introduced in its WeChat account last year, the Tobacco Control Association has received more than 30 thousand reports from the public.

Wang Zhixin, a volunteer team leader in Fengtai District, said that after receiving a report from their district, they will send the closest volunteer to the location, talk to the smoker, and check whether the management or owner of the building at that location have fulfilled their obligations to supervise and stop smoking.

"We will check whether there is a person in charge of smoking control in the work unit, and whether there are no-smoking logos in noticeable places. If violation of the smoking rules is hard to control in the work unit, we will suggest that they set aside an area for smokers in the building. And we will re-visit the place the following week to see whether there is an improvement."

If a work unit is reported five times for smoking violations, sanitation departments will intervene and the work unit will be fined.

Zhang Jianshu said that although residents are satisfied with the implementation of the current smoking ban, there is still a long way to go before the campaign goes nationwide, as most areas do not ban smoking in public areas.

"We call on legislators to set up a regulation at the national level to promote the campaign to ban smoking. Currently only 18 cities have introduced rules, and the rules differ in the different cities. An interim period is necessary during its implementation, but a regulation at the nation level is urgently needed."

Zhang added a recent survey shows about one-fifth of the two million smokers in Beijing have given up the habit since the implementation of the smoking ban in 2015.

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