Xian is latest Chinese city to ban smoking in public spaces, threatening US$1.50 fine

  • Penalties and reporting hotline introduced by new local legislation after 2011’s nationwide prohibition of indoor smoking proves ineffective
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 10:34am

A city in China’s northwest has launched the country’s latest effort to outlaw smoking in public spaces, announcing a ban and fines for individuals and businesses.

Xian’s ban follows those in Beijing and Shanghai, introduced in 2015 and 2017 respectively, and Shenzhen, which brought in a blanket ban in 2017 after years of piecemeal legislation since 1998.

The Chinese government outlawed indoor smoking nationwide in 2011, but it was poorly enforced and lacked penalties, with little implementation at local level.

Authorities in Xian announced that, effective from Thursday, indoor smoking in public spaces would be prohibited, including on public transport, along with smoking in certain outdoor public spaces such as sports stadiums, children’s parks and school playgrounds. The full laws were published by the website Xian News on Saturday.

However, the fines in Xian are lighter than those in Beijing, where individuals can be fined 22 yuan (about US$3.20) and businesses up to 10,000 yuan.

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Other major cities have been less successful in outlawing the practice completely. The eastern city of Hangzhou amended a proposed ban on indoor smoking earlier this year after lobbying from China Tobacco, the state tobacco manufacturer, according to Reuters. Now, the city must provide designated indoor public smoking areas.

China has the world’s largest smoking population, estimated at around 350 million of its 1.3 billion citizens, who smoke a third of the cigarettes manufactured in the world annually. More than a million people a year in China die from smoking-related illnesses.

Xian’s new legislation was welcomed by public health experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“This 100 per cent smoke-free regulation is a wonderful gift for the people and visitors of Xian,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, the WHO’s regional director. “It is the gift of health and air free from harmful second-hand smoke.

Beijing bans smoking in public places as China eyes nationwide tobacco crackdown

“Experience in other cities in China shows strong public support for smoke-free laws, and public participation in enforcement and reporting is essential for success,” said Dr Gauden Galea, a WHO representative in China.

Residents of Xian can call a complaint hotline to report anyone smoking in public venues. Individuals caught smoking in prohibited areas can be fined 10 yuan (about US$1.40) by inspectors, while venue operators may be fined between 500 and 1,000 yuan.

Prominent nationwide public health campaigns in recent years have drawn greater attention to the dangers of public smoking, including second-hand smoke.