Friday, April 25, 2008

Setting an Example... Sort of

As I wrote earlier in Half-hearted Measures, the Beijing municipality has fallen short of its goal of trying to get people to stub out smoking in time for the Olympics.

Originally the government wanted to ban smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars, but it backed off from instituting a smoke-free environment in these premises and instead only in indoor areas of government offices, hospitals, hotels, schools, sports facilities and transport stations.

Restaurant and bar owners complained they would lose lots of business if their patrons weren't allowed to light up. However, one dining establishment called Salt -- a western restaurant I have yet to check out -- is smoke free and the staff report business is better than ever.

Yesterday a health official announced the Beijing government is recruiting another 40,000 inspectors to make its force an even numbered 100,000. Their job is to patrol those places described in the smoking ban areas and persuade people not to light up.

Yes, you read right -- persuade -- by example.

"The idea is that the inspectors should provide a good example by not smoking in their own venues," said Sun Xiali, an official with the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee, which will oversee the enforcement of the ban.

These inspectors do not have the authority to issue fines to smokers either.

How is that going to persuade people not the light up?

Beijing is just skirting around the issue of banning smoking in public places. When the city was awarded the Games seven years ago, it has all this time to gradually bring a smoking ban into place and yet the city left this to the last minute to enforce.

This also shows how pervasive smoking is in the country and they blame it on being so ingrained in Chinese society that it's hard for them to go cold turkey.

But smoking didn't become a habit of the masses until everyone saw Chairman Mao light up.

While the government thinks it's moving in the right direction, its pathetic measures to ban smoking are hardly clearing the air.


Anonymous said...

well, i think you'd be surprised by the fact that it does work to some degree as weird and pathetic as the attempt may be. On the same note, guess who fares to loose out the most on tobacco revenues...

Anonymous said...

dont forget smoking was introducd by the british during the qing dynasty. the worst was opium which let the whole country hooked and finally succumbed to foreign dormination. this harm has been so entrenched in the chinese psyche that it will take some time to unwind. on a recent visit to turkey and the middle east, i found smoking is also very prevalent there.