The ban on smoking is unlikely to be achieved if we hang our hopes on a single law, says an article in the Oriental Morning Post. The following is an excerpt.
Recently, Shanghai municipal government has begun to strengthen its prohibition of smoking in public places. According to media reports, the venues where smoking is banned are likely to be expanded from the current "public places" to "all indoor working places" and a local law will replace previous government smoking bans.
The current Shanghai municipal government regulation prohibiting smoking was promulgated and implemented in 1994. The contents in this regulation do not meet the needs of today's society, a decade after its promulgation. It is now imperative to extend the scope of the smoking ban and include more public spaces in the new legislation.
But a change of local laws doesn't guarantee that smoking in public places can be more effectively checked. An obvious problem is that we still do not know how to monitor "all indoor working places," we have not made it clear who is responsible for this work and what kind of punishment should be incurred if a violator is caught.
One of the biggest reasons for implementing smoking bans is tobacco industry interests. According to a report last year, the number of tobacco companies in China dropped from more than 180 four years ago to 31 last year. Another report showed that in 2006, the consumption tax on tobacco was 113 billion yuan ($15 billion) and the tobacco industry as a whole made 290 billion yuan ($41 billion) in both profits and taxes, second only to the oil industry. Roughly speaking, 50 million people are living on the tobacco industry in China.
The ban on smoking in the provinces that depend on tobacco industry for revenues could be likened to the suicide of local economies.
No one now denies the fact that smoking affects health but if we ignore the practical social conditions and try to forcefully ban smoking, the effect could be negative.
At present, we can only say that controlling smoking is better than a total ban on smoking. In the long term, a smoking ban involves much more than just a law, but also involves educating smokers and sorting out the tobacco industry.
(China Daily March 29, 2008)