One of China’s largest cities has pledged to step up efforts to crack down on smoking amid complaints that a new smoking ban has been largely ignored by both law enforcement and business owners.
The law banning smoking in public places in Guangzhou came into effect on Sept 1, ushered in with a massive show of force by the city’s law enforcement.
Over 200 police officers and city management officials were dispatched to patrol areas designated as smoke-free by the new ban, from shopping malls to restaurants and karaoke parlors.
Zhao Hong, vice director of the city’s Urban Management Bureau, vowed that authorities would “not be the least bit lenient” in punishing those caught violating the ban.
But in recent weeks many Guangzhou residents have complained that smoking is still prevalent in many places now officially designated as smoke-free.
Critics say that official enforcement has been lax, while restaurant managers and other proprietors have turned a blind eye to customers who smoke on the premises.
The city’s Urban Management Bureau has declined to give statistics on the total number of people fined since the new law came into effect, the China Daily reported last month.
Guangzhou’s government has vowed to address concerns over enforcement of the anti-smoking law, promising greater efforts to monitor public areas where smoking is most common.
The China Daily reported Sept 18 that the city planned to set up a 100-member task force to inspect areas such as restaurants, bars, and karaoke venues to ensure compliance with the ban.
City officials announced on Sept 25 that a new “smoking control office” would be formally established in October. The announcement also noted that 12 smokers had been fined for violating the ban that day.
But in the nearly three weeks since the announcement, no further details on the proposed office have been released, nor has a precise date been set for its unveiling.
Han Zhipeng, a member of the Guangzhou branch of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, called for harsher penalties for those caught smoking in public places, according to the China Daily.
“The mere 50 yuan penalty is not severe enough,” he said.
In an interview with the Global Times, anti-smoking activist Gregory Tsang said that the effectiveness of efforts to control smoking depend primarily upon the example set by China’s doctors and health officials, many of whom are smokers themselves.
“These people should be setting a good example for smoking control,” Tsang said. “If they themselves are addicted to cigarettes, there is no way to convince the public to stay away from tobacco.”