Indoor smoking down sharply

Almost half of a year after the implementation of a new tobacco control regulation in Beijing, smoking in public places has greatly decreased and public support for a smoke-free city is rising, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning said on Wednesday.

Health authorities in Beijing inspected 30,414 venues since June 1, when the regulation took effect, and punished 217 for failing to stop indoor smoking, the commission said.

The authorities also levied fines totaling 30,650 yuan ($4,800) on 598 smokers who violated the regulation, the commission reported.

The percentage of people found smoking in public places has been reduced from 11.3 percent before the regulation to 3.8 percent currently, said Gao Xiaojun, the commission’s spokesman.

According to Gao, although smoking has decreased in entertainment venues such as karaoke, or KTV, clubs and bars, those places are still where indoor smoking is most prevalent.

The number of tobacco control volunteers in Beijing exceeded 11,000 as of the end of October, the commission said.

With the total number of smokers in Beijing estimated at more than 4 million, the number of health law enforcement officers – about 1,000 – is far from enough, and volunteers have been playing an important role in assisting law enforcement, said Wang Benjin, deputy chief of the Beijing Health Inspection Bureau.

With arrival of winter, the challenge for law enforcement may become greater, since cold temperatures could drive more smokers indoors, Wang said.

Indoor smoking down sharply

The smoking regulation bans smoking in all indoor public places, such as restaurants, bars, schools and hospitals. It also applies to certain outdoor public areas, such as seating areas in stadiums and areas outside hospitals that are designed for children or maternity care.

Anticipating a possible rise in indoor smoking due to cold weather, health inspectors have been engaged in a tobacco control campaign since earlier this week, targeting restaurants, bars and office buildings – the three types of venues where indoor smoking is most commonly seen in Beijing – Wang said. The campaign is expected last a month.

“We will intensify supervision and inspection in these places and impose heavier penalties on violators during the coming month,” he said.

The World Health Organization in China launched a social media campaign on Wednesday in which 19 posters highlighting health harms caused by secondhand smoke were released. The posters are designed to remind smokers to refrain from smoking in indoor public places even in winter.

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