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August 12, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

New law to fine smokers who light up in ban zones

FIFTEEN years after Shanghai took its first small but ineffective legislative steps toward limiting tobacco use, smokers may finally face punishment for lighting up in prohibited places, city legislators working on a new tobacco control law said yesterday.

The lawmakers said they have added penalties for errant individual smokers in draft legislation called the Shanghai public tobacco control law. Under it, violators would be hit with fines ranging from 50 yuan (US$7.32) to 200 yuan.

The fines would be levied in public places designated by the new law as smoke-free zones, the legislators said.

"The penalties against individuals come after heated debate," said a member of Shanghai People's Congress who is on the team drafting the smoking-control law.

Some legislators said they doubted whether individual punishments would be effective because it may prove difficult to catch and penalize smokers.

"But we reached consensus that this was an essential step in advancing the city's anti-smoking effort," the lawmaker said.

Shanghai People's Congress will hold a new round of discussions on the draft next week and is expected to enact it before year end.

The Shanghai Health Bureau is the only watchdog authorized to hand out fines under the current smoking regulations, issued in 1994. The bureau said it can afford to field a team of only 200 members devoted to tobacco control, while facing a huge population of smokers. Around 30 percent of the city's 19 million residents are believed to be smokers, according to a survey by health authorities.

The current ban does not target individuals. Only the operators of places where smoking violations occur face penalties, which range up to 1,000 yuan, for failing to stop offenders. In addition to punishing individuals, the new law would raise fines for venue operators to 30,000 yuan.

The current ban covers places such as hospitals, schools, stores with more than 200 square meters of floor space and indoor stadiums.

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, entertainment venues such as karaoke parlors and games arcades and the offices of state-owned enterprises.

Enforcement would come from the health bureau, industrial and commercial watchdog and transport and education authorities.


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