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September 1, 2010

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City smoke law clearing the air

SHANGHAI'S anti-smoking campaign is gradually working, local health authorities said yesterday, with fewer people smoking in tobacco-free areas compared with six months ago, when the city enacted its public-venue tobacco control law.

Public health authorities have been paying undercover visits since the law took effect on March 1.

The latest investigation report shows that the don't-smoke rule was strictly followed at 72 percent of public venues the investigators spot-checked, compared with 63 percent in March.

And nearly 52 percent of the smokers stopped smoking after being persuaded. Six months ago, only 19 percent were open to persuasion.

Under the Shanghai Public Places Smoking Control Law, individual offenders may face fines of 50 yuan (US$7.30) to 200 yuan. Earlier anti-smoking regulations carried no punishments.

The ban applies to 12 types of public areas, including schools, hospitals, supermarkets and elevators. Karaoke bars, dance balls and restaurants are required to set up smoking and non-smoking areas.

Internet cafes and other entertainment venues are still the worst for tobacco control, both in the number of smokers detected as well as slack management response to carrying out the law, according to officials.

Nearly 70 businesses have so far been warned and ordered to improve their smoking control, including one that was fined 2,000 yuan.

The smoking ban is difficult to enforce, the report noted, because smokers can easily leave the scene long before the arrival of the law enforcement officials.

Neither the smoking-control volunteers nor supervision officials have the right to punish offenders, even if the smokers refuse to stop.

They can only report offenders to a public supervision hotline and wait for the law enforcement body to take over the case and determine the fine.

The smoking law enforcement team consists of officials from the city's health bureau, food and drug administration, and cultural law watchdog.

Li Ming, a local lawyer and also a deputy to the city's People's Congress, the legislation body, proposed installing smoke alarms at non-smoking areas to help catch lawbreakers.

Li also said yesterday that the city should ask restaurants to provide no lighters or ashtrays, unless customers ask for them.

The city said yesterday it will check the implementation of the smoking ban in public areas every three months until September 2012.


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