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100,000 Beijingers to serve as smoking ban inspectors
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More than 100,000 Beijingers would be tasked to check the enforcement of a smoking ban at public facilities that would take effect since May 1 in the Olympic host city of Beijing, a health official said.

More than 1,000 people have been trained on the enforcement of the ban, while another 100,000 people would be appointed as inspectors by all the city's enterprises and institutions, said Deng Xiaohong, spokeswoman of the Beijing Health Bureau.

People caught smoking in forbidden areas face a minor fine of 10 yuan (US$1.4) while enterprises and institutions that violate the ban face fines between 1,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan, according to Zheng on Thursday.

Restaurants, bars and Internet cafes have been exempted from the proposed smoking ban at public facilities in response to concerns expressed by business owners, officials said earlier this month. These places will only be told to separate smoking and non-smoking areas from May 1 as part of the new regulation.

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 decline.

From Oct. 1 last year, Beijing banned smoking in the city's 66,000 cabs, and imposed a fine of 100 yuan to 200 yuan (US$14-US$28) on drivers if caught smoking in cabs.

China has pledged itself to a non-smoking Olympics and a Green Olympics, and this year's event will be the first non-smoking Olympic Games after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), of which China is a signatory, went into effect in 2005.

About 350 million people in China smoke, statistics from the Ministry of Health show. That is about 26 percent of the country's population and a third of the world's smoking population. About 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases each year.

(Xinhua News Agency April 25, 2008)

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