Now that Beijing has implemented its indoor smoking ban, other cities look to follow the capital in eradicating the health risks of smoke altogether.
According to an online survey, 93 percent of Shanghai residents are in favor of a smoking ban in indoor public areas, similar to the Beijing ban. The survey, carried out by the Shanghai Health Enhance Commission, attracted over 25,500 responses on the municipal government’s official WeChat page.
Shanghai’s current anti-smoking regulations only forbid smoking in certain public spaces such as primary schools, kindergartens and hospitals. Restaurants with 75 seats or more and businesses over 150 square meters in size are permitted to designate smoking and non-smoking sections.
The Beijing smoking ban forbids cigarette use in all offices or other working environments as well as public transportation, schools, daycare centers, youth activity centers, gyms, historical sites, and hospitals. It is widely hailed in the media as “China’s toughest anti-smoking law ever” with violators fined up to RMB 200 ($32).
It is estimated that some 13 million smoking deaths can be prevented if China inplements WHO guidelines on cigarette use.
Netizens are largely supportive of the smoking ban. There are a few comments that object to the ban, like one person who said, “It doesn’t matter, it’s all meaningless.”
Of the people that are in favor of the ban, some think it doesn’t go far enough. One person said, “This is a case of treating the symptoms but not dealing with the root cause. (They ought to) close down the cigarette factories,” while another said, “What do you mean, ‘strict’? A RMB 200 fine is considered to be strict? Laws are stricter in Hong Kong and Singapore, you should take a lesson from them!”
Home to a third of the world’s smokers, stamping out cigarette use has been a difficult task in China, the world leader in cigarette production as well as consumption. Besides implementing smoking bans to curb cigarette use, China has also more than doubled taxes on cigarettes from five to 11 percent. As well, depictions of smoking have been banned in Chinese television and films.
However, cigarette companies in China provide huge incentives to the government by earning between seven and ten percent in tax revenue and employing a vast number of workers. Due to the influence they wield, they are not yet required to issue warning labels on their products.
Although China had passed anti-smoking legislation before, enforcing these laws outside of international locations like Beijing and Shanghai has proven to be problematic. Even during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, smokers were seen flouting the law by smoking in front of “No Smoking” signs.
Smoking remains a vital part of Chinese culture due to its use in guanxi, and as a symbol of friendliess and comradery between men.