Saturday, February 2, 2008

An Attempt to Spark Change

Smoking in China is as much a part of the culture as spitting or squatting on the street.

At restaurants, patrons will light up without any regard for his fellow diners. They even puff in hospitals, right under a No Smoking sign.

Once a man got into the elevator with me with a lit cigarette. And then he puffed on it the moment he got off.

It almost seems like smoking is an inalienable right of the Chinese.

But soon that will not be the case anymore in Beijing.

The municipal government is looking into passing a law banning smoking in public places, including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, fitness centers, toilets and schools. Anyone caught violating the law will be fined 50RMB (US$6.90).

This is all part of the government's pledge to have a smoke-free and Green Olympics.

In a report on China Radio International, some smokers were interviewed and said of course they wouldn't smoke in public places. And besides, one added, it's for the good of society.

Where do they find these people?

What's interesting is that China was awarded the Games seven years ago. In its bid, Beijing promised a non-smoking Olympics, and now less than 187 days to August 8, the government is pushing this smoking ban.

How it will be enforced is also questionable. While there are 350 million smokers in China, there's easily several million of them in Beijing.

Either we'll see more smokers butting out, but more likely we'll find more closet smokers itching for a puff anywhere they can get it.


Blog Ramblings said...

Ha! It would be easier to get the Irish to quit drinking. The culture of passing cigarettes round when one lights up is a social rule parallel to the round of drinks culture in the Ireland/England. The French may have had moderate success (the poor coffee shop owners!!), The Irish had surprisingly good results but to try the same in China is hoping for way too much. (I could understand their motives with the cost of health care as it is.) If basic public order rules are so blatantly ignored in the first place, isn't this the better place to start??

ks said...

well it is a good start. i wish them every success. in a country with such a huge population it is difficult to enforce any new rules and regulations. with smoking so entrenched in the chinese mind we have to give them time to adjust. it is gratifying to know at least the big posters with the great helsman holding a cigarette is no longer visible. another thing they can do is tax the cigarettes to the max. and use that money to subsidize health care.