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Fair play urged for smoking ban

2009. 22 September

by Dong Zhen
( A leader of one of the teams that will enforce Shanghai's coming smoking control law wants to completely ban tobacco use inside KTV parlors, video arcades, pubs and other entertainment venues.

"The law should ensure fairness. There should be no difference in smoking control among different rooms inside a karaoke bar or elsewhere in the industry," Lan Yiming of the Shanghai Culture Market Administrative Law Enforcement Team said during a public hearing yesterday on the draft measure.

Without a blanket ban, he fears his agency and the others handling enforcement will have a difficult time persuading people to stop smoking in one area when they see people lighting up in another nearby.

Lan was among the 20-plus people brought together by Shanghai People's Congress to give their views on the issue. Law makers may amend the draft based on what they heard yesterday as they continue discussion of the proposal. Their goal is to enact the measure by the end of the year, well in advance of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which starts on May 1.

Under the plan, smoking would be banned inside schools, hospitals and public places such as cinemas, museums, banks, malls, airports, railway and bus terminals and many privately owned businesses. Smoking would be allowed only in special areas in bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.

For the first time, individuals would be fined for violating smoking controls, with levies ranging up to 200 yuan (US$29.28). Operators of venues subject to smoking controls would be fined up to 30,000 yuan for failing to stop offenders.

Those speaking yesterday expressed widespread support for the measure. Even a department head for cigarette maker Shanghai Tobacco Group agreed that some controls were inevitable. But the official, Chen Chaoying, said the draft law goes too far, and he disputed the scientific consensus that exposure to second-hand smoke can cause health harm, a statement that drew sharp sarcasm from following speakers and outbursts of disapproval from the audience.

He was challenged by Zhao Yun, an emergency room physician, who said, "As a doctor, I say the harm from smoking is proven beyond any question," referring also to second-hand smoke.

While most of the hearing participants agreed smoking controls were the right thing to do, some speakers stressed that changing ingrained habits won't be easy.

Xia Xiangqing of the local restaurant association said the group plans for nearly 1,000 big-brand eateries to carry out strict smoking controls before the Expo, but the process will be gradual.

"Some restaurant owners are afraid of losing business, especially those running small ones," Xia said.