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Smokers face tough fines
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Smoking would be banned in all enclosed public venues and penalties would be increased under new draft legislation for Beijing.

Cui Xiaobo, professor of Social Medicine at the Capital Medicine University, also a tobacco control expert helping draft the anti-smoking law, said a total ban was the only practical solution for public health.

"The city's work on anti-smoking has indeed made a great achievement, thanks to the smoking regulation, effective May 1, 2008, a way to meet the country's pledge of a smoke-free Olympics. But there is still more to be done," Cui said.

Smoking restrictions are in place in about 70 percent of public venues in the capital. About 1,200 restaurants, 218 hospitals, and 66,000 taxis are smoke free.

But the current penalty for individuals found smoking in banned areas is just 10 yuan ($1.4).

According to the draft, the penalties for individuals who flout bans will be about 200 to 1,000 yuan, and it would be about 30,000 to 40,000 yuan for venues.

"The cigarette smoking rate decreased to 21.5 percent last year, 1.5 percentage points lower than 2007," Cui said, referring to his survey conducted of 6,000 Beijing residents last October.

"More importantly, more and more residents are beginning to be aware of the harm of smoking."

The survey found about 84 percent of residents supported the total ban in all enclosed public places.

In addition, more than 70 percent of Beijing residents wanted the government to raise fines for establishments if they fail to prevent smokers from lighting up cigarettes.

"Harsher penalties for establishments and individuals is an important way to ban smoking, but this is just an initial proposal," Cui said.

"The draft will be completed by the end of the year, and then sent to Beijing municipal people's congress for a decision."

Qiao Jingyao, 23, a manager at Sculpting In Time cafe welcomed the proposal.

"It will not only stop people smoking in restricted areas, but also save thousands of people's lives."

The cafe has already established a smoking section, twice the size of non-smoking area.

"We receive about 190 to 200 guests each day, and most of them smoke. Staff have to work and breathe in second-hand smoke. Such a ban would be a big step forward in public health, especially for the restaurants workers," Qiao said.

But a student surnamed Jiang from the University of International Business and Economics said people would continue to smoke regardless of the law.

"The problem is that when the ban comes in, people will move into the streets or come back home, and then smoke more, they can not ban smoking completely," she said.

Oliver Dick, 28, from Germany, said many European countries have strict bans on smoking in public places.

When asked about he what to do if the ban was carried out in Beijing, Dick said he would go outside to smoke.

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco, with more than 300 million people smoke and 54 million second-hand smokers. About 600,000 people died of lung cancer in 2008 across the country, an estimated one million more died of tobacco-related diseases.

It is estimated that about 100 million will die from smoking-related diseases by 2050 if no measures are taken, according to the latest figures from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

(China Daily September 24, 2009)

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