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China To Implement Ban On Smoking In Indoor Public Spaces

Chinese health officials this week announced the country will move forward in May with a ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces “in an effort to shield the world’s most populous nation … from the harmful effects of the habit,” Reuters reports. The plan will “require businesses to display prominent no-smoking signs, forbid vending machines from selling cigarettes and ensure that designated outdoor smoking zones not affect pedestrian traffic, according to a ministry statement reported in Chinese media on Thursday,” the news service writes (Wee, 3/24).

“But the new regulations have considerable loopholes. They do not cover factories, offices or government workplaces and, more important, they lack specific guidelines for penalizing scofflaws,” the New York Times writes (Jacobs, 3/24). “The Ministry of Health says officials are allowed to fine smokers up to 30,000 yuan but does not specify which violation would warrant such a large fine,” the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog reports (Burkitt, 3/24).

“While acknowledging the challenges of enforcing the new ban, antismoking advocates hailed the measure as a first step to weaning the nation off tobacco, which kills more than 1.2 million Chinese a year,” the New York Times adds (3/24). “Nearly 30 percent of adults in China smoke, about 300 million people – a number roughly equal to the entire U.S. population,” the Associated Press reports (3/23).

“Beijing had previously committed itself to introducing the ban by January 9 this year when it signed the World Trade Organization (WTO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control five years ago,” Agence France-Presse writes. “But it missed the deadline due to a lack of state-level legislation, ineffective administration, low-priced cigarettes and deep-rooted tobacco culture, the official Xinhua news agency reported in January,” according to AFP (Doran, 3/23).

Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog points to examples of previous failed attempts to ban smoking in certain locations in China. “One major problem,” the blog notes, “is that state-owned China Tobacco Corporation, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer, is still a subsidiary of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which is supposed to regulate the tobacco industry” (Anderlini, 3/23).