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May 11, 2012

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City poised to ban all public indoor smoking

SMOKING may be banned completely inside all public venues in Shanghai starting next year as city legislators aim to reinforce anti-tobacco control.

Legislators said yesterday that they planned to pass an amendment early next year in order to fix loopholes in the current law, which took effect in March 2010.

Legislators said the current rules that define which parts of public places should be smoke-free are too complex, hampering efforts to enforce them.

Sun Yunshi, an official with the Shanghai People's Congress, said lawmakers would hold an overall review of the young law this December before deciding how to revise it. But the major thrust will be to simply ban smoking in all indoor public spots, regardless of their function. Currently, rules differ by the type of venue, such as the size of a restaurant.

"We will improve the law to make it more effective and practical," Sun said yesterday. "It's planned that the revised rules will be tougher against public smoking."

Internet cafes are currently the most notorious among public venues in failing to carry out the law, according to several watchdogs that collaborate to crack down on illegal smoking. The management inside entertainment venues, including pubs, karaoke parlors, restaurants and hotels, is also worse compared to other public venues, such as hospitals and schools, law-enforcement officials say.

Over the two years since the law's enactment, 108 businesses and 13 smokers have been fined for violations, and the total penalties add up to more than 270,000 yuan (US$42,875) said the Shanghai Health Promotion Commission, a government agency that steers the city's anti-smoking campaign.

The commission said the latest undercover investigation by volunteers and watchdogs showed that about 15 percent of local hotels still provide ashtrays and matches inside the non-smoking zones while most of the budget and chain hotels don't even keep no-smoking rooms.

The authorities yesterday said they will increase inspections and raise penalties in the coming months.

The restaurants and hotels that refuse to rectify mistakes will see their names publicized in local media as an additional punishment, authorities said.

Legislators said some restaurants and lower-tier hotels have not tightened up anti-smoking enforcement because they fear dissatisfying their big groups of customers who like to smoke.


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