Beijing has had enough with the people smoking in public places. They will ban smoking in restaurants, offices and public transport on Monday. This is a part of a new law, welcomed by those against cigarettes, but enforcing remains to be seen because it was rarely done in the past.

This restriction had been asked by health activists for quite some time now. China, which has the world’s biggest population and is the largest tobacco consumer, is considering expanding these anti-smoking laws to the rest of the country.

Those who decide to go against it in the capital, will have to pay a 200 yuan ($32.25) fine. They already had fines for this, the old one was set at 10 yuan ($1.60) and was not enforced most of the time.

Those who keep smoking and getting fined, will be named on a government website. Businesses can also get fined if they don’t try to convince the person to not smoke in the area or don’t have a sign saying that smoking is not allowed. “Restaurant staff have a duty to try to dissuade people from smoking,” said Mao Qunan, of the National Health and Family Planning Commission. “If they don’t listen to persuasion, then law enforcement authorities will file a case against them.“

According to state media, the shops near primary schools and kindergartens are no longer allowed to sell cigarettes.

Health Crisis

This issue has become a major health crisis in the nation, where more than 300 million smokers have made this part of their daily lives and millions more are exposed to secondhand smoke. It doesn’t help that the millions of smokers can buy cigarette packs for just five yuan or 80 US cents and that they produce 42% of the world’s cigarettes. That’s not all, Chinese physicians have been found to exhibit high smoking rates, which is controversial because many think they should be roles models of healthy behavior to their patients. A 2004 study conducted among 3,500 Chinese physicians found that 23% Cigarettewere regular smokers.

Just last month, the parliament passed a legislation that banned tobacco ads in places where they could be seen by the masses. Many cities have banned smoking in public places before, but enforcement has not really been there to stop them.  Before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the city extended a smoking ban, the restriction ended up having a great impact at the time but numbers are still high.

Banners and Hotline

The nation has added bright red banners with all kinds of anti-smoking messages. They have also set up a hotline on which violators can be reported, the China Daily reported.

Those against tobacco are happy with the changes and are more confident that the government will lower the levels of smoking after a series of tougher restrictions the last few months. “We couldn’t say this is the strongest law in the world,” said Angela Pratt, of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “But it’s certainly up there with the strongest, in that there are no exemptions, no exceptions and no loopholes on the indoor smoking ban requirement.”

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