- Title: CHINA: OLYMPICS - Smoke free Olympics "impossible".
- Date: 25th April 2008
- Summary: PEOPLE WALKING AND SMOKING
- Embargoed: 10th May 2008 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Health,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA5LDJNQWO7SR7AK2057XAH5193
- Story Text: Beijing bans smoking in some public places as part of a smoke-free Olympics-- but the world's largest cigarette market seems to keep on smoking.
Banning smoking completely in Beijing is "impossible" but the city will do its best to ensure a smoke-free environment for the Olympics through new regulations to come into force on May 1, officials said on Thursday (April 24).
The new regulations ban smoking in sports venues, parks, on public transport and in schools but restaurants and hotels are exempted.
The Olympic host city had pledged to restrict smoking in most public places before the Aug. 8-24 Games and is committed to achieve a "thorough indoor smoke-free" environment required by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by 2011.
Nearly a quarter of Beijingers above the age of 15 smoke.
Cigarettes and cigars will also be prohibited in all indoor gyms and stadiums as well as the stands of outdoor stadiums, cultural heritage sites, teaching areas in colleges and common areas in government offices.
Restaurants, bars, internet cafes and amusement parks can now have separate smoking zones and hotels should provide non-smoking rooms or floors, according to the new regulations.
Smokers who violate the rules will be fined 10 yuan ($1.43) if caught breaching the regulations by one of 100,000 tobacco control inspectors who will be roaming the city. Work units that do not follow the rules will receive a 1,000 to 5,000 yuan fine.
Some Beijing smokers do not welcome the ban, but others, like Li Hao, think it is a good idea.
"Smoking is my pastime. But it would be best if I do not affect others with it. I think this is quite good, there is nothing bad with the ban," he said.
The Chinese are the world's most heaviest smokers, with a growing market of more than 350 million, a third of the world's total, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health issues.
But the government's concern goes beyond that. With the Beijing summer games coming in just a little over 100 days, the government not only wants the Beijing sky to clear up, but also the air in public places.
Li Lingyan, Vice Director of Beijing Legislation Office, told a news conference smoking was an important part of many Beijing residents' lives and it was impossible to eradicate the habit in places like catering and internet cafes."
Beijing banned smoking in taxis in October and launched an awareness drive targeting businesses and residents last year. But resistance to the campaign has been strong. Authorities had written to 30,000 restaurants asking them to put smoking bans in place, but not a single one took up the suggestion, state media said in January.
Beijing restaurant Meizhou Dongpo was one of the first in the capital to completely ban smoking. Manager Guo Xiaodong said once the ban was announced revenues dropped as much as 8 percent. However they picked back up again as supportive, non-smoking clientele began to use the restaurant.
The restaurant, near a gynaecology hospital is popular with pregnant women anxious to avoid smoke. Guo believes that most visitors to his restaurant have been receptive to the restrictions.
"A customer may want to smoke, but he may also want to protect his wife and child in a smoke free environment. It's better for everyone. Of course some smokers feel uncomfortable, but they can smoke in their own homes.
In the end you're here to eat, so most people can accept it," Guo said.
A million or so people die of smoking-related diseases each year in China and about 100,000 Chinese die annually from diseases associated with passive smoking, Xinhua reported the Ministry of Health as saying last March.
Chinese cigarettes are among the cheapest in the world, with a packet costing as little as $0.08.
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