Smoking ban fails to take effect

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 September, 2010, 12:00am

Smokers now have to think twice before lighting up outside their homes - the Guangzhou government implemented the Guangzhou Smoking Control Regulation on September 1.

It is now illegal to smoke in offices, hospitals, schools, shops and indoor public areas, including cinemas, museums, libraries and gyms. Restaurants are required to set up smoking and non-smoking areas.

To effectively enforce the new measure, the Guangzhou Health Committee has hired a special team of officers. Fifteen government bureaus and enterprises, including the Bureau of Health of Guangzhou, Guangzhou Police Bureau, Guangzhou Education Bureau and the Guangzhou Railway Group also have the right to enforce the rule.

This month is a try-out period in which officers will only warn offenders. Beginning next month, offenders will be fined 50 yuan (HK$57). But the new measure seems to have very little deterrent effect.

White collar worker Kevin Luo, who is a heavy smoker, says: 'When I need a cigarette badly, I leave the office and smoke in the stairway. Many people are doing it.'

Zhao Biao, also a heavy smoker, says the new rule will not be effective.

'If the government really wants to forbid smoking, it should shut down cigarette manufacturers,' he says. 'But the government would never do that because they pay a lot of taxes.'

It's estimated by the Guangzhou Health Committee that there are more than 2 million smokers in Guangzhou. But the committee has only hired 20 officers to seek out offenders.

'I'm afraid the effect of the rule will be very limited,' says Zheng Da, the host of Guangzhou news programme Today Focus.

'If the action we take is as strict as that in Hong Kong, sending out hundreds of officers and fining HK$5,000 every time, then the measure will be effective.'

Some restaurants have not set up smoking and non-smoking areas. Lucky Hotel in Beijing Road is one of them.

'We have to meet the customers' needs, and a smoking ban will affect business,' says one of the hotel employees.