China gets tough with public smoking banBy Michael Evans Sep 02, 2012 11:13PM UTC
One of China’s largest cities is cracking down on smoking in public places, with a massive and well-publicized enforcement campaign rolled out this past weekend.
On September 1, a new law punishing public smoking with a 50 yuan ($8 US) fine came into effect in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.
The city’s smoking ban extends not only to large common areas such as shopping centers and public transportation, but also entertainment venues including karaoke parlors and internet cafes.
Authorities were keen to show that the new law would be taken seriously.
“As soon as we find that someone is smoking illegally, we’ll immediately give out a fine. We won’t be the least bit lenient!” promised Zhao Hong, vice director of the city’s Urban Management Bureau, according to the official Guangzhou Daily newspaper.
On the day the ban went into effect, the city sent out over 200 “law enforcement officers” including police, health officials, and urban management inspectors, charged with discovering and punishing offenders.
Officers stood watch in public areas and patrolled indoor spaces encompassed by the ban, even peering into private rooms in karaoke parlors in the hunt for illegal smokers.
More than a hundred journalists and other media personnel followed enforcement officers on their rounds, documenting fines handed out and the occasionally hostile reactions of those caught.
“Journalists have the legitimate right to interview and observe,” said Zhao Hong. “Those who accompany our law enforcers are under the protection of the law.”
The first person to be caught breaking Guangzhou’s new anti-smoking law was not actually a resident of the city.
At 10:20am on Sept 1, a man from Hunan province was found smoking in a bus station waiting room, and while he claimed to have never heard of the ban, was given a ticket on the spot, according to the Yangcheng Evening News.
By 10pm, a total of eleven people had been fined for violating the ban.
While most public spaces and entertainment venues are now off-limits to smokers, those who insist on lighting up still have a few, if limited, options.
Restaurants smaller than 150 square meters or seating fewer than 75 people are not included in the ban.
Smoking was already illegal in most public spaces in Guangzhou long before yesterday’s new law went into effect.
However the previous law was considerably more lenient than the current one, allowing smokers to escape the required fine if they stopped smoking when confronted by police.
In the two years the law was in effect, only one person was fined, according to the Southern Metropolis News.