The smoking ban started in China on 1st of May, which prohibits smoking in public indoor areas. Owners of bars and restaurants would be required to have visible “no-smoking” signs. However, 6 months after this regulation, it seems to have a long way to go.
“A survey conducted by an environmental group finds that a government ban on smoking in indoor public venues has been completely ignored by half of Beijing’s restaurants, a finding that underscores the challenges of controlling tobacco in a country with 300 million smokers.”
As I lived in France for the past 10 years, I remember the smoking ban came into effect in France on February 2007 in all bars, cafes, everyone all respected the next day. How come it doesn’t work in China?
I remember that I have a friend who came to Beijing to visit me the next Sunday after May 1st. We went to a small café close to San Li Tun. As my friend is a smoker, so we asked the café owner if it would be ok for him to smoke. She said “of course”. So I told her that the smoking ban was coming out on 1st of May and she said she hadn’t been informed. I noticed that 3 Chinese men were also smoking next to our table. If nobody is aware of this regulation in this country, how this is going to work?
The 40 per cent tax on cigarettes makes them the largest single source of tax revenue in China based on Beijing Today– generating £45 billion last year – and Beijing controls the entire industry via the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which sets production quotas and prices. In effect, the Chinese government runs the world’s largest tobacco company.
A survey last year found that only 23 % of adults in China believe smoking causes heart attacks, lung cancer etc. As I lived in France for nearly 10 years, I know that smokers could be scolded by their doctors. Almost everyone in France knows that smoking is bad for health. However, I talked one time with a worker from An Hui province in China and he thinks that smoking is a very natural way to relax.
Smoking is also part of Chinese tradition. We often see lots of cigarettes pile up on the lunch table during Chinese wedding ceremony. The bride needs to light up the cigarette for the guest. Packs of cigarettes are also treated as gifts for friends and families. During business meeting or diner, people exchange cigarette as a way to start the communication.
The new regulation still does not specify punishments for business owners like restaurants who break the ban nor specify penalties for smokers in public areas. In Europe like Ireland, breaking rule like this would cost RMB 3000.
So Chinese do have a long list to do to be smoke-free in public areas.