From: Reuters
Published March 31, 2008 01:33 AM

Beijing aims to cut down smoking for Olympics

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing will ban or restrict smoking in most public venues in May as part of its pledge to hold a smoke-free Olympics, local media reported on Monday, citing the city's legal office.

New legislation to take effect on May 1 will forbid smoking at government offices and on public transport, the Beijing Morning Post said, but falls short of setting outright bans at restaurants, bars and clubs.

Smoking is already banned in cinemas, gymnasiums and other enclosed public places in the capital, but the rules are routinely flouted.

The new regulations extend smoking bans to sport venues and fitness centers, but allow smoking away from "service areas" at restaurants, bars, clubs and parks. Hotels would be required to provide non-smoking rooms, the paper said.

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The new rules would bring the city "in line with international conventions and fulfill the promise of a smoke-free Olympics," the paper quoted Zhang Peili, director of the city's legal office, as saying. The Beijing Olympics start in August.

Institutions that fail to comply would face "immediate fines" of up to $5,000 yuan ($700), the China Daily said.

The Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of more than 350 million, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health concerns.

Beijing banned smoking in taxis in October and launched an awareness drive targeting businesses and residents last year. But resistance to the campaign has been fierce.

Authorities had written to 30,000 restaurants asking them to put smoking bans in place, the China Daily said in January, but not a single one took up the suggestion.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie)

("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china))

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