Des­ig­nated smok­ing area draws ire

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By WANG XIAOYU Ning Yuqi con­trib­uted to this story.

A des­ig­nated out­door smok­ing area sprawl­ing about 70 square me­ters on a land­mark com­mer­cial street in Bei­jing has sparked a fu­ri­ous back­lash from to­bacco con­trol ad­vo­cates, who urged im­me­di­ate re­moval of the in­stal­la­tion.

The out­door smok­ing area, lo­cated in front of the Bei­jing Depart­ment Store on Wang­fu­jing Street, is par­tially en­closed with flower beds, con­tain­ing 13 cig­a­rette ash­tray stands and 18 benches.

Within an hour on a chilly Tuesday, about five smok­ers stopped in the area to light up cig­a­rettes.

Zhang Jian­shu, head of the Bei­jing To­bacco Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, de­nounced the in­stal­la­tion as a se­vere vi­o­la­tion of the city’s to­bacco con­trol reg­u­la­tion launched in 2015.

“The reg­u­la­tion stip­u­lates that smok­ing venues should be set up far away from ar­eas where peo­ple of­ten cross and clus­ter, and there must be prom­i­nent sig­nage that in­forms the pub­lic of the health risks in­volved in smok­ing,” he said.

He added that the area risks block­ing ac­cess for fire­fight­ing equip­ment, com­pound­ing the haz­ards it poses to pub­lic safety.

Guo Jinyang, 23, a stu­dent who re­turned to Bei­jing for win­ter va­ca­tion, said the out­door smok­ing area on the pedes­trian street ex­poses passers-by to harm­ful fumes.

“It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate to have the fa­cil­ity in the open space,” he said. “Most smok­ing ar­eas I’ve seen in other coun­tries en­closed.”

Wang­fu­jing Street, stretch­ing 1,400 me­ters, is one of the city’s iconic shop­ping ar­eas. It sees an av­er­age of 250,000 vis­i­tors daily, about 70 per­cent of whom are do­mes­tic trav­el­ers from out­side of Bei­jing or for­eign tourists, ac­cord­ing to the street’s man­age­ment au­thor­ity.

Zhang said the as­so­ci­a­tion has reached out to street reg­u­la­tors and govern­ment bod­ies, which promised to re­move the in­stal­la­tion.

“How­ever, the ash­tray stands and some adorn­ments are made from steel that’s dif­fi­cult to dis­man­tle. So prepa­ra­tions are un­der­way to fa­cil­i­tate the re­moval,” Zhang said.

Bei­jing ZoomDu Eco-Tech­nol­ogy Co, which led the de­sign and con­struc­tion of the smok­ing area, has built seven other des­ig­nated venues for smok­ers across China. are at least The ma­jor­ity are in­door smok­ing rooms at air­ports.

Jia Peipei, the de­signer of the Wang­fu­jing fa­cil­ity, said the in­tent was to re­spect the rights of smok­ers and pro­tect non­smok­ers from breath­ing sec­ond­hand smoke.

The com­pany was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

Gau­den Galea, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive for China, said in an interview on Bei­jing TV, that he firmly re­jected the no­tion that smok­ing is civ­i­lized when done in such an in­stal­la­tion.

“By cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere of so-called civ­i­lized smok­ing, the to­bacco in­dus­try is try­ing to un­der­mine the ex­ist­ing strong leg­is­la­tion to make Bei­jing a smoke-free city,” he said.

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