Beijing finally imposed a ban on smoking in public palaces this Monday morning, in hope of fighting off, or at the very least managing, the unhealthy and polluting habit that half of Chinese men still share to this day. The ban is to start effective immediately on June 1st, 2015, today.
Smoking and air pollution are two (2) very real problems in China, where people still used to smoke in offices, shopping malls, airports, restaurants, cafes, hotels, hospitals, outdoor stadiums, school grounds, public parks, railway stations and all other public places until the recent ban.
Violators of the ban will have to pay a fee of 200 Yuan ($32) if caught. It’s a significant increase from the 10 Yuan ($1.60) that they previously had to pay thanks to a partial ban implemented by some of the Chinese cities who also agreed to stop selling cigarettes to minors.
A great step forward is that owners of restaurants and various other businesses will now for the first time be responsible with making sure that their customers comply and don’t violate the ban. If they fail to get their costumer to comply, they could end up paying fees that go up to 10,000 Yuan (about $1,600).
Though the overall success or acceptance of the ban is yet to be determined, the general population expressed support and welcomed the ban.
Xu Jiawen, a housewife and the mother of a 4-month-old baby, gave a statement saying that “Of course (smoking) influences our health because secondhand smoking is more damaging than smoking. I think it’s best for everyone to stop smoking in public places”.
She is not the only one that sees things this way. As soon as the day started, 1.100 passionate “anti-smoking inspectors” send by the Communist party put on their red armbands and hit the streets of Beijing in search of illegal smokers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously warned that China hosts 300 million people who smoke and that 740 million Chinese citizens are exposed to secondhand smoke. The organization stresses that lung cancer kills more than 1.3 million Chinese citizens every year (a third of the global number) and that average age at which the Chinese start smoking is under 11.
Roughly 4.2 million of China’s 300 million smokers live in Beijing.
The Chinese government fought the decision for a while due to the tax revenue that it enjoys from cigarette sales. However, with the public’s health worse than ever, and cancer and air pollution gaining more ground every day, they agreed that the attitude had to change.
As far as Beijing goes, the capital has been meaning to position itself as a major world capital for a while now, and in doing so it would need to promote civilized behavior similar to that found in western countries among its own occupants.
Angela Pratt, a World Health Organization anti-smoking expert, says that Beijing has every change of making its dream come true if it enforces the new ban properly. He says that in other countries where strong smoke-free laws have been adopted and properly reinforced, the social norms eventually changed.
Cigarette shop owners are complaining of course, informing that many of their customers are thinking of smoking since they no longer have anywhere to smoke.
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