Smokers in Shanghai may need to start hunting for other places to puff on their cigarettes, if the municipal health bureau has its way.
The health authorities are waging a campaign for a smoke-free 2010 World Expo by extending a smoking ban to more places, following recently proposed legislation aimed at banning smoking in Shanghai office areas and restaurants.
The proposal, still in its preliminary stages, comes after Beijing's move to limit public smoking for its summer Olympics.
"By working on tobacco control legislation, Shanghai is living up to its obligation to the World Health Organization, stipulated in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control signed by China in March 2003," said the municipal health bureau through a statement on its website.
Currently, only a few places in Shanghai ban smokers from lighting up. These include cinemas, libraries and concert halls.
Health officials plan to phase in the extension of the smoking ban by first ordering that restaurants create designated smoking areas. But some restaurants are not sure whether this will work.
Ma Yan, the manager of a Western-style restaurant on Shanghai's commercial Huaihai Road, said that they are not prepared to set aside a smoking area.
"It's difficult practically," said Ma. "We have a large number of customers waiting to be served at noon, and we are short of staff to supervise people's smoking behavior."
Gu Zhongliang, manager of a Cantonese restaurant, also along Huaihai Road, said its dining room is divided into smoking and non-smoking sections.
Some residents see the smoking ban as a good thing for the city.
Wang Yuxing, a heavy smoker and sales representative for a Shanghai-based company, said he welcomes the legislation.
"I respect other people's rights to protect themselves against the health threat from tobacco," said Wang, while smoking outside Shanghai Shuguang Hospital and waiting for his wife.
"In fact, I'm getting used to seeing 'no-smoking' signs in the city. The ban won't make much difference to me as long as smoking sections are retained in public places."
(China Daily April 1, 2008)