Shanghai sets to control public smoking at year end

SHANGHAI – Controlling smoking in public venues, especially places dedicated to culture and entertainment, will be a goal of the Shanghai government’s in the next half of 2011.

That’s according to the results, released on Thursday, of an anti-smoking inspection that attempted to gauge the success of the city’s work to control smoking in the first half of the year.

According to Shanghai’s first anti-smoking law, which came into effect in March 2010, 16 types of public venues – including hospitals, schools, bars, restaurants and hotels – are required to establish designated non-smoking areas and put up signs prohibiting smoking.

Those who smoke in places where they are not supposed to will at first be warned by inspectors and then, if they refuse to stop, be subject to fines ranging from 50 yuan to 200 yuan ($7.75 to $31).

“We started this March to try to control smoking in all of the city’s districts by recruiting volunteer teams that would conduct undercover inspections,” said Li Zhongyang, deputy inspector of the Shanghai Municipal Health Bureau. “Thirteen municipal official buildings and public venues were given warnings to make corrections immediately.”

The regulation called on operators of public venues to educate customers about the health hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke.

“We aim to fulfill our responsibility to teach the public about the importance of not smoking in public by organizing anti-smoking events and putting up posters for residents.”

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, China is home to more than 300 million smokers. Nearly 1.2 million of them die from smoking-related diseases every year, meaning that one out of every five people in the world who die from such causes is Chinese.

As for Shanghai’s smoking ban, the places most lax in obeying it were karaoke bars, Internet cafes, bars and other entertainment venues. They were also the main targets of the city’s inspections.

Of the 8,253 public venues that local authorities inspected in the first half of the year, 265 received first warnings. Fourteen others, including 10 entertainment venues, were told to pay administrative penalties after they had failed to comply with the ban even though they had been ordered to do so for a third time.

“All entertainment venues are still subject to exceptions to (Shanghai’s) smoking ban,” said Zhu Yaoren, deputy director of the municipal cultural market administrative law enforcement team. “It’s very hard to strictly separate the smoking areas from the non-smoking areas in these places to ensure the air is clear for customers.”

Zhu noted that 10 percent of the venues that violated the smoking ban either received warnings or fines in 2010. That number has fallen to under 3 percent in the first half of this year, a sign that the campaign to enforce the ban is making progress.

The Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress has meanwhile carried out undercover inspections of 46 various locations inside municipal government buildings.

Obvious evidence of smoking was found in 10 of them – in corridors, toilets, offices and other such places. And cigarette butts had been left in 12.

“Smoking still occurs in public places in government buildings, especially in certain meeting rooms and offices,” said Li Ming, office director of the education and health committee of the municipal People’s Congress. “That should be forbidden as soon as possible, and senior officers should set an example.”

Li added that smoking areas at the end of corridors should have windows or air-circulating machines, which will help prevent smoke from lingering in the air.

To continue pressing forward with the campaign against smoking in public places, the Shanghai government plans to conduct more undercover inspections in the next half of 2011. The likely targets of that work include schools, municipal or district government buildings and entertainment venues.

“Controlling smoking is a long-term project for us,” said Sun Yunshi, chairman of the education and health committee of the municipal People’s Congress. “We will definitely continue our work by conducting more detailed inspections at public venues and campaigns among local residents.”

By Yu Ran
China Daily

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