Beijing-based family physician Evelyn Fang is no gourmet, but she knows that providing a good meal for non-smokers means giving them the choice of avoiding tobacco smoke when they dine out. Pushing for such a change in the capital, where restaurants are not covered by an 11-year-old regulation that bans smoking in public areas, the US-educated doctor from the Beijing United Family Hospital has compiled a bilingual pamphlet containing a list of 135 eateries that provide smoke-free areas. Compiling the list, which Dr Fang said was not comprehensive, was no easy task. She and some interns at the hospital had to painstakingly check with the restaurants by phoning them. 'We just want to let people know that there is a choice. We also want to let the restaurants know that there is such a demand among their patrons, and providing smoke-free areas is not going to affect their business because some people will prefer to eat out more as a result,' Dr Fang said. Having grown up in California, the first US state to ban smoking in public areas, before moving to Beijing two years ago, Dr Fang decided to start the project after encountering culture shock in Beijing's restaurants. 'Depending on what kind of restaurants you go to, in mid-end restaurants only 15 to 20 per cent of the people are smoking and the rest are just inhaling the tobacco smoke [that others] exhaled,' she said. Beijing's smoking culture has not only affected Dr Fang but also her patients, who are mostly foreigners working and living in Beijing. More than 80 per cent of those who quit smoking resumed the habit after coming to the mainland. 'A patient of mine had quit smoking for 15 years, but he started smoking again here because everyone around him was smoking. There is no way he could get around it,' she said. 'My patients have been telling me that the two things that bother them over business meals are being frequently asked to drink and smoke. They think smoking is the way to do business in China and refusing to do so would mean not giving face.' Adapting to a different culture and longer working hours were also pushing some ex-smokers back into their old ways, Dr Fang said. The pamphlet, The Guide to Smoke-Free Eating, is being handed to patients at the Beijing United Family Hospital. The patients are encouraged to give a copy of the pamphlet to restaurants that do not have smoke-free sections. These efforts may well be given a lift by a recently announced plan by Beijing authorities to promote smoke-free restaurants in preparation for the Olympic Games next year. Large and middle-sized restaurants are being urged to ban smoking altogether, according to a circular issued by Beijing's health, commerce and tourism bureaus in April. Those that cannot offer a blanket ban should at least set aside 75 per cent of the area as a smoke-free zone, it added. Restaurants inside Olympic-signed hotels and stadiums have also been asked to ban smoking before June next year.