Chinese woman wins case after suing rail operator over smoking on ‘no smoking’ train

Company told to remove facilities for smokers after smoking during journey prompts successful legal challenge by passenger

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 4:51pm

A Chinese woman who sued a rail company for allowing smoking on a train despite it being prohibited has won her case, according to local media.

Beijing Railway Transport Court ruled on Monday in favour of the plaintiff, Li Ying, who had sued the train operator, Harbin Railway Bureau, for breaking its own smoking ban in her carriage, reported Huaxi City Daily, a local newspaper in Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

Li was travelling from Beijing to Tianjin, in northeast China, last June when she noticed a strong smell of smoking around her, the report stated.

“The safety notice on the train says that ‘smoking in all parts of the train is prohibited’, but a smoking area is arranged on the train,” Li was quoted as saying.

What will it take to get China’s 350 million smokers to quit? Public bans, tax hikes on the cards

“Ashtrays are prepared for smokers as well. Both passengers and employees are smoking on the train. It’s very unreasonable and unacceptable.”

“Fumes penetrated through all areas of the train and Li Ying suffered unavoidable harm from passive smoking during her journey,” Li’s legal representative stated in court, the report said.

A representative of Harbin Railway Bureau reportedly told the court: “We agree that smoking is detrimental to health, but we can’t see the actual damage the plaintiff received in this case.

Smoking costs US$1.4 trillion in health care and lost labour, study finds

“The train travels for more than 30 hours, passing through seven provinces. Only Beijing and Tianjin have the regulation on smoking, while other cities do not.

“The establishment of a smoking area on a long-distance train is consistent with reality.”

The judge found that the smoking area broke safety rules, was detrimental to passengers’ health and broke the operator’s contractual obligations.

China’s ministry in charge of tobacco control had ties to the tobacco industry. Not anymore

The railway company was ordered to remove smoking areas and smoking paraphernalia within 30 days, Huaxi City Daily stated.

“This is a very significant and unprecedented lawsuit,” Wang Zhenyu, a lawyer in Beijing and a member of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, was quoted as saying.

“Li is the first citizen who has sued the operator regarding smoking in a public area. I believe this lawsuit will promote a total ban on smoking in train carriages.”

Li’s claim for compensation for mental suffering and a public apology were thrown out by the court, the report stated.