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Beijing moves to ban smoking in cabs
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Beijing started posting striking signs of "No Smoking" inside 66,000 cabs in the city to meet the requirements of a smoking ban to be enforced from October 1, amid efforts to help create a "non-smoking" Olympic Games in 2008.


Local authorities, including the Health Bureau, Transportation Administration Bureau, and Transportation Law Enforcement General Team, jointly launched the public promotion of smoke-free cabs.


"Smoking will be banned for both drivers and passengers. Drivers will face a fine of 100 yuan to 200 yuan (US$13 to 26) if caught smoking in cabs," said Ma Yanjie, deputy head of the Taxi Management Department of the Beijing Municipal Transportation Administration Bureau.


"If passengers violate the regulation, their names will be exposed by news media," Ma said.


Beijing started a drive banning smoking in hospitals, schools, restaurants, government offices and private organizations and other places as from last April to pursue a scientific strategy of development, in a bid to fulfil the commitment of ensuring "Green Olympics," said Jin Dapeng, head of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.


The municipal government has also drafted a set of regulations banning smoking at Olympic venues, athletes' accommodation areas, and within vehicles designated to serve the event.


Sales of cigarettes would also be banned in all venues, and training and accommodation areas.


However, implementation of the ban faces hurdles in Beijing, where almost half the male population are smokers, according to a survey conducted by Horizon Research Consultancy Group. Some Beijing taxi drivers fear passengers will ignore the ban and their advice against smoking, and they say they lack the authority to stop passengers from smoking.


The concept of a "non-smoking" Olympics, initiated in 1988, has been put into practice since the 1992 Barcelona Games.


Next 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.


The government has pledged to ban all types of tobacco advertising and promotions by 2011 in accordance with its obligations under the FCTC.


Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicates that 350 million people in China, about 26 percent of the country's population and a third of the world's smoking population, are hooked on nicotine and about 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases each year.


(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2007)

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