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December 11, 2009

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Smokers warned: Time nigh to butt out

MIDDLE school properties are included in areas of total smoking bans in Shanghai's first public tobacco control law that was passed by city lawmakers yesterday.

The law takes effect on March 1, 2010, before the start of the Shanghai World Expo next May and offenders face fines.

"We hope to improve the city's smoke control gradually after a long period of efforts," said Ding Wei, deputy director of the Commission of Legislative Affairs of the Shanghai People's Congress.

The inclusion of middle schools aims to protect more minors from being endangered by passive smoking.

Under the new law, a total smoking ban on both indoor and outdoor areas will also apply to kindergartens, primary schools, maternity and children's care centers and all children's activity centers.

The new law considerably widens the scope of a regulation on smoking control issued by the city government in 1994 to encompass student dorms and canteens in all schools, elevators and waiting areas, Internet cafes, hotels and places where public services are offered by government departments.

Venues like karaoke bars, dance balls and restaurants should set up designated smoking and nonsmoking areas, according to the law.

The law clarifies that eateries with an area of more than 150 square meters or 75-plus seats should separate smokers and non-smokers.

Lawmakers said they would eventually expand the scope of smoking bans.

The law says the city government can decide on temporary smoking bans in areas hosting large-scale activities. This clause provides a legal ground for the city to host a "non-smoking Expo."

"Any individual has the right to ask smokers to stop smoking in non-smoking areas and report offenders," Ding said.

For managers of smoking-free areas who don't take effective measures to implement the law, a fine of between 2,000 yuan (US$293) and 30,000 yuan will be imposed.

People who smoke in banned areas face a fine of between 50 yuan and 200 yuan.

"If the person refuses to stop smoking after being warned, he or she will be fined," Ding said.

Li Zhongyang, deputy director of the Health Promotion Commission, the chief overseer of the law, said about 10,000 smoking-control volunteers would be recruited.


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