Smok­ing ban in Shanghai still lacks strict en­force­ment

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Manav Keel­ing

In June, a Beijing court ruled that a State-run train op­er­a­tor should can­cel all des­ig­nated smok­ing ar­eas on its trains after a pas­sen­ger sued them over sec­ond­hand smoke, The Beijing News re­ported. Dur­ing the trial, China Rail­way Harbin Group ar­gued that hav­ing no smok­ing ar­eas on reg­u­lar-speed and longdis­tance trains “would be in­hu­mane to pas­sen­gers who smoke.”

That any­one in this well-in­formed age would have the audacity to say that not be­ing able to smoke is more in­hu­mane than forc­ing non­smok­ers to breathe toxic sec­ond­hand smoke demon­strates the self­ish men­tal­ity of smok­ers.

While sci­en­tists, med­i­cal ex­perts, courts and even ci­garette man­u­fac­tur­ers all rec­og­nize the harm­ful ef­fects that smoke has on the health of smok­ers and non­smok­ers, it seems that tobacco users them­selves refuse to ac­knowl­edge this proven fact. They are so ad­dicted that they will fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally blow can­cer­ous smoke in ev­ery­one else’s faces so they can get their ni­co­tine fix.

This is also true in China, where smok­ers seem to feel they have a le­git­i­mate hu­man right to pol­lute the air that we all must share. At the of­fice build­ing where I work, de­spite “No Smok­ing” signs, smok­ers have taken over the stair­wells as their own pri­vate break rooms (they are sup­posed to use the ash­tray on the ground floor out­side).

To make mat­ters worse, they pur­posely shut all the stair­well win­dows to in­fuse the small space with smoke. When­ever I have to make a pri­vate phone call in the stair­well, I must suf­fer their smoke. These are men in their early 30s, which is ironic con­sid­er­ing that their gen­er­a­tion has had far more ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness about the dan­gers of cig­a­rettes than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

There is no na­tional ban on smok­ing in pub­lic, but in March of 2017, Shanghai im­ple­mented a ban on smok­ing in in­door pub­lic places, work­places and pub­lic trans­port. The city dis­trib­uted 1.5 mil­lion smok­ing ban signs and 3.2 mil­lion smok­ing con­trol posters, Xin­hua News Agency re­ported, with in­di­vid­ual vi­o­la­tors fac­ing fines start­ing at 50 yuan ($7), and venue op­er­a­tors up to 30,000 yuan.

Un­for­tu­nately for non­smok­ers in Shanghai, leg­is­la­tion means lit­tle with­out en­force­ment. What are the chances that a po­lice of­fi­cer shows up at our of­fice build­ing to hand out ci­ta­tions? I ap­plaud the lo­cal govern­ment for strictly en­forc­ing the ban at train sta­tions and on trains, but I sim­ply do not see this same level of en­force­ment be­ing car­ried out any­where else here.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates that a com­plete na­tion­wide ban on smok­ing in China’s work­places would re­duce the preva­lence of smok­ing among Chi­nese men by 13 mil­lion. How­ever, an ar­ti­cle by the Fi­nan­cial Times re­ported that, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 govern­ment study, 54 per­cent of Chi­nese peo­ple wit­nessed in­door smok­ing in their work­places and that nearly 40 per­cent had wit­nessed smok­ing in govern­ment build­ings.

China is the world’s largest con­sumer of tobacco, with 316 mil­lion smok­ers and an ad­di­tional 740 mil­lion ex­posed to sec­ond­hand smoke. The coun­try set a tar­get to re­duce the smok­ing rate among peo­ple aged 15 and over to 20 per­cent by 2030 from the 27.7 per­cent recorded by the Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Healthy China 2030 blueprint is­sued by the cen­tral govern­ment last year.

Last week, au­thor­i­ties in Shen­zhen, South China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince, fined a store owner 30,000 yuan for sell­ing cig­a­rettes to a mid­dle school stu­dent, China Youth Daily re­ported. Also last week in Shen­zhen, reg­u­la­tors is­sued a 50yuan fine to an ex­pat caught puff­ing on a cig in a dumpling restau­rant. Ecns.cn re­ported that it was the first time that a for­eigner has been fined for smok­ing in the city.

If the restau­rant is found to con­tinue to tol­er­ate smok­ers, they may also face a 30,000-yuan fine. The self-de­feat­ing words in lo­cal anti-smok­ing cam­paigns, how­ever, are “may” and “face.” The law does not ex­plic­itly state that vi­o­la­tors “will be is­sued” a fine. And this is cry­ing shame, be­cause I can guar­an­tee you that if Chi­nese cops handed out fines to ev­ery smoker they caught in non­smok­ing ar­eas, such bans would be a re­sound­ing suc­cess.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

G T n g / I l l u s t r i a t i o n : L u T

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