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July 22, 2011

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Smoking ban has a way to go on enforcement

FIFTEEN months after Shanghai passed its first restrictions on public tobacco use, smokers are still often spotted in non-smoking areas including some government offices, local legislators said yesterday.

The legislators made random undercover visits to various government offices during the first half of the year, and they bumped into smokers, including government workers and officials, in about 25 percent of the offices.

Currently, the law applies only to government-run office sites, not to private office buildings.

The anti-smoking law applies to 12 types of public places including schools, hospitals and entertainment sites. The law requires government offices to ban smoking indoors. But an exception allows them to establish a smoking corner, which must be clearly marked and well separated from the non-smoking areas to prevent contamination of others.

The undercover visits showed smoking areas at nearly 54 percent of the visited government offices failed to be segregated from the non-smoking spaces. Second-hand smoke is known to harm non-smokers.

"Although we didn't find smokers inside some conference rooms at these office buildings, we still found cigarette butts, ashtrays or sensed a strong smell of cigarettes in the air," said Li Ming, a legislator on the investigation team.

The law imposes a complete ban on smoking inside meeting rooms at government office buildings. Given the large population of smokers, including public servants and government officials, the ban in meeting rooms is proving to be a challenge, the legislators said.

Meanwhile, entertainment venues such as karaoke bars, clubs and restaurants are the sites where smoking has been most difficult to curb, said the city's cultural market watchdog.

"People are trying to relax at these places and the business managers are also reluctant to discourage their customers," Zhu said.

"So efforts to advance the non-smoking ban are the most difficult to carry out at entertainment spots inside such venues and are worse inside the Internet cafes," Zhu said.


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