Health ex­perts, re­searchers call for cig­a­rette ban on slow trains

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By WANG XIAOYU wangx­i­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Ex­perts called for an out­right ban on smok­ing through­out China’s rail­way net­work, af­ter air qual­ity in­spec­tions found dan­ger­ous lev­els of harm­ful pol­lu­tants on slow trains. Most slow trains cur­rently al­low to­bacco use in des­ig­nated ar­eas.

Re­searchers led by the Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion of To­bacco Con­trol ex­am­ined four slow trains in Oc­to­ber. Three of the trains had set up des­ig­nated smok­ing ar­eas in con­nect­ing ar­eas be­tween car­riages, and one had banned to­bacco use.

Re­sults re­leased on Thursday showed the con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 in car­riages of trains where pas­sen­gers can smoke ex­ceed 500 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter.

When­ever the av­er­age con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 — air­borne par­ti­cles 2.5 mi­crons in di­am­e­ter or smaller — is higher than 150 mcg/ cu­bic m, the air is con­sid­ered haz­ardous to hu­man health, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing En­vi­ron­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­ter.

Air is even more toxic in the ar­eas be­tween car­riages where smok­ers gather. Peak PM2.5 con­cen­tra­tions reached more than 1,000 mcg/cu­bic m, the re­search found.

By con­trast, the range of PM2.5 mea­sured in the smoke-free slow train was 19 to 156 mcg/cu­bic m.

“If we en­force a ban on to­bacco in all slow trains, the air qual­ity in the trains will be the same as that of the out­door space,” said Li Enze, deputy head of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s le­gal af­fairs branch.

He added that cig­a­rette fumes can eas­ily seep through car­riages and spread through a train, thereby pos­ing health risks to a large num­ber of pas­sen­gers on board.

Cui Xiaobo, deputy di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing To­bacco Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, said sec­ond­hand smoke is likely to cause life-threat­en­ing, acute ill­nesses.

“A lot of emergency med­i­cal re­quests oc­cur­ring on trains are linked to vulnerable groups, in­clud­ing the el­derly, chil­dren, preg­nant women and those with chronic dis­eases who breathe in smoke,” he said. “Rid­ing on slow trains for hours can bring alarm­ing dam­age to a per­son’s health.”

The re­searchers also in­ter­viewed 94 pas­sen­gers on the four trains, and found that 77 of them would ap­plaud a com­plete ban on smok­ing on slow trains. Twelve male smok­ers were against the pro­posal. The re­main­ing five peo­ple didn’t give a def­i­nite an­swer but con­tended that they would com­ply with a no-smok­ing rule.

China’s high-speed rail net­works all pro­hibit smok­ing, but the ban does not ap­ply to slow trains, de­spite years of ap­peals from to­bacco con­trol ex­perts. Pas­sen­gers on slow trains are al­lowed to smoke in des­ig­nated ar­eas, of­ten the con­nect­ing ar­eas be­tween car­riages.

In June, a Bei­jing court ruled in fa­vor of a fe­male pas­sen­ger, sur­named Li, who sued the Harbin Rail­way Bureau for set­ting up smok­ing ar­eas and ash­trays on a slow train she rode in 2017.

The bureau was or­dered to elim­i­nate all smok­ing fa­cil­i­ties on the train within 30 days of the ruling. The train was in­cluded in the Oc­to­ber re­search as the smoke-free sam­ple. But other trains run by the bureau con­tinue to al­low smok­ing.

Last year, China saw 3.37 bil­lion rail­way trips, with about 60 per­cent of those tak­ing place on smoke-free, high-speed lines.

Spo­radic me­dia re­ports of vi­o­la­tors pop up on oc­ca­sion, how­ever. For ex­am­ple, rail­way po­lice in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, said on Wednesday that a man sur­named Zhang was de­tained for ob­struct­ing po­lice when he was found smok­ing in the re­stroom of a high­speed train. Zhang at­tacked an of­fi­cer, the po­lice said.

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