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August 18, 2009

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Anti-smoking lawmakers eye tougher fines

FINES for people who light up in smoke-free zones should be more than the 200 yuan (US$29) proposed in the draft of the city's tough new tobacco control law, several lawmakers said yesterday.

The city also should have a single task force to enforce smoking bans and a hotline for the public to report smoking scofflaws and venue operators that allow the rules to be violated, several members of the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress suggested yesterday during a discussion session on the draft law.

The viewpoints were echoed by most of the several dozen Congress members present, making it likely they will find their way into the final legislation.

The law - which is expected to contain the first penalties against individual smokers since the city began to take small steps toward tobacco control 15 years ago - is expected to be put on the books by the end of the year.

Lawmakers are now fine-tuning the draft law to expand the smoke-free zones and stiffen penalties for violators.

Several Congress members said yesterday that 200 yuan fine now proposed is not enough of a threat and should be raised significantly.

"Only a few of the errant smokers will be punished given the limited personnel for enforcement. But we must make the punishment alarming enough so smokers understand the potential cost of their violations," said one Congress member.

Many lawmakers agreed with a suggestion that the law should also require venue operators to install prominent signs warning against smoking in prohibited places.

"It's important that the signs carry a warning with the penalty amount along with the hotline for the watchdog to report violators. That would greatly step up supervision by the public," said Congress delegate Shi Lei.

Target: hard cases

The fines will be imposed against individuals who refuse to stop smoking and venues where repeat violations occur, the lawmakers said yesterday.

The new law would prohibit smoking both indoors and outdoors around kindergartens, middle and primary schools, hospitals for children and pregnant women, orphanages and other public venues frequented by children and pregnant women.

Indoor smoking would be banned at all other schools, hospitals and public places such as cinemas, museums, banks, malls, airports, railway and bus terminals and many privately owned businesses.

Smoking would be allowed only in special areas in bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues like karaoke rooms.


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