Where there's smoke... there's a Beijing bar or restaurant!

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It appears - and I stress the term appears -- today that Beijing municipal authorities have confirmed a rumor that has been circulating around the capital's pubs and restaurants the past couple of weeks; smoking restrictions are going to be implemented in advance of the Olympics.

No Smoking.jpg

Beijing to ban smoking in public places from May
Updated: 2008-03-31 11:57

BEIJING -- The Chinese capital will ban smoking in most public places starting from May 1 -- a big step toward tobacco control in a nation of 350 million smokers. The move will also meet China's pledge of a smoke-free Olympics. More than 150 Chinese cities already have limited restrictions in place, but the capital will be the first to ban smoking in all restaurants, offices and schools, English-language China Daily reported Monday. Beijing has had some smoking restrictions since 1996, when the municipal government prohibited lighting up in large public venues such as schools, sports arenas and movie theaters. The new rules, which were announced on Saturday, expand the scope to include restaurants, bars, Internet cafes, hotels, offices, holiday resorts and all indoor areas of medical facilities. Hotels must also have rooms for non-smokers, but the ratio is still being discussed, said Cui Xiaobo, a renowned tobacco control expert who helped draft the new rule. Institutions that fail to comply face immediate fines of up to 5,000 yuan (713 U.S. dollars), while it has not yet been decided how to deal with smokers breaking the new rule.

Speaking to a manager last week at one of my favorite haunts here in Beijing, The Purple Haze, I was told that while there had been quite a bit of discussion within bar and restaurant circles, no official rules have been brought forth.

I'm of two minds on this subject. Having lived previously in Vancouver, which had a city-wide smoking ban in place in bars and restaurants, I found that it was somewhat nice not having to get strong whiffs of smoke up my nose while I was trying to eat. That said, I am a smoker myself. And I enjoy nothing more than being able to relax with a beer at a pub or restaurant and have a cigarette. And I really wasn't a fan of having to trudge outside during a rainy Vancouver winter to hack a butt. But, much like a lot of things in life, you get used to it. Before the smoking ban was implemented in Vancouver, the bar and restaurant owners association was screaming bloody blue murder, saying a complete ban would cause incalculable financial losses. That never happened. However, Beijing may be a bit different. This is a smoking society. Anyone who has ever been to an official function is likely aware that its almost protocol to offer guests cigarettes as a gesture of respect. Handing out cigarettes has also become a tradition at weddings. Smoking is almost a way of life here in China.

With that in mind, I have my doubts about whether this smoking ban will be put in place. Reading through the Xinhua report, one can't help but recognize the vagueness of the language, which leads me to believe that the government is simply planning on saying one thing, and doing another. As well, one has to wonder how Beijing is going to enforce any type of smoking ban. In this new era of bureaucratic reduction here in China, I highly doubt were going to be seeing roving bands of Taliban-like beard inspectors cruising around Beijing looking for bars and restaurants breaking a smoking ban. So, unless a snitch line is set up, there is going to be little incentive for bar and restaurant owners to enforce the rules.

I am not a supporter of smoking. I know it sounds hypocritical, but it's true. I have warned off numerous young people who have considered lighting up, because I know what a pain in the arse it is to try to quit. That said, come May 1st, I highly doubt I'm going to be forced outdoors to get my fix.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on March 31, 2008 3:31 PM.

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