A cigarette in China may be solace from the drudgery of work. And it may be entry into a club of card-playing men and fuel for a night of drunken deal making as Nathan Vanderklippe puts it.
However, the new ban has been justified by concern about health issues. The goal of the smoking ban is to protect non-smokers against second-hand smoke and create a social environment that will put pressure on smokers to quit. It should also be another major step for China moving towards modernity.
Not only places like offices, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and airports should become smoke-free. Also many outdoor public places such as the areas outside kindergartens, schools and hospitals will be required to be smoke-free.
There are supervision hot-lines that people can call to report violations. Anyone breaking the law will be fined: Individuals must pay between 10 and 200 yuan (up to $32), businesses up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600). And anyone who breaks the law three times will find themselves named and shamed on a government website. Not a small thing in a culture, in which losing face is still a shame.
Katie Hunt, CNN reports: “Perhaps no one is happier than the World Health Organization, which worked closely with Beijing to write an anti-smoking law that stands to be among the most influential on earth. If it works, it will serve as the template for national Chinese rules and make Beijing an example for the entire Asian region.”
A comment from a smoker: “If you want to stop smoking, it would be better to shut down the tobacco companies – but that’s impossible, because tobacco is so profitable for government.” Full 7 per cent of China’s state revenues supposedly comes from tobacco.
Beijingers make jokes about the “clearly cleaner” air due to the ban. The air may not be generally cleaner because less people smoke outside, but it is certainly much cleaner in Beijing restaurants now than say even 5 years ago. According to my experience people not only smoke much less in restaurants, men also drink less hard liquor. The ambience is definitely getting more and more pleasant.