Putting out the cigarettes

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/21 18:53:39 Last Updated: 2016/8/22 7:45:01

Amendments to public-smoking law would expand penalties to venues, individuals

The city of Shanghai is set to approve 13 amendments to its six-year-old public-smoking law. If passed, the local laws would expand the municipality's no-smoking areas and authorize the city's enforcement units to impose on-the-spot fines to both venues and individuals for violations.

The draft of amendments was submitted in July to the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress, with an aim to bringing the law in compliance with an international treaty on tobacco control, the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Photo: IC

Following a three-week period for public comment, experts and authorities working on the amendments attended a panel discussion earlier this month organized by the Health Communication Institute at Fudan University and Shanghai Municipal Health Promotion Committee.

The current law, enacted in 2010, bans smoking in 13 types of public places and areas open to the public, such as schools, hospitals and shopping malls; some venues, like restaurants and public transportation hubs, are allowed to set aside smoking rooms and sections.

On the panel, Yang Yin, a professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the amendments would expand the no-smoking areas to fully encompass FCTC guidelines.

"The core of the amendments is to ban smoking in all indoor public areas. It has made a big leap to meet the same level of the Beijing and FCTC guidelines by adding two more area types to the no-smoking zones," Yang said.

One area covers food and beverage service establishments. "If a restaurant has an area larger than 150 square meters or has more than 75 seats, it is allowed to set up smoking sections. And now we are abandoning that section," Yang said.

The other closes a loophole in places of employment. Currently, it's illegal to smoke in a shared workspace; the new definition would include the entire workplace, with an eye to forbidding company employees with their own offices from simply shutting the door and lighting up.

Also, more outdoor public spaces are included in the amendments. The draft expands the law's reach to include performance venues' stages and audience seats and waiting areas at public transportation hubs.

The amendments also cover punishment. Law-enforcement personnel would be able to issue fines on the spot. Initial fines for venues would range from 2,000 yuan ($ 300.91) to 10,000 yuan. In more serious circumstances, the level would range from 10,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan.

Furthermore, individual violators in no-smoking areas could face fines from 50 yuan to 200 yuan.

Lu Bing is with the Integrated Law Enforcement on Cultural Market, one of the 11 departments that are to enforce the law. Lu told the panel that the best part of the amendments is simplifying enforcement procedure and cutting down enforcement costs.

"First of all, indoor public areas are totally smoke-free, so we don't have to even make a judgment in those cases. Secondly, it removes the premise of warnings before enforcement," Lu said.

Lu also pointed out some difficulties they have.

The draft of amendments to Shanghai's public-smoking law aims to bring the law in compliance with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Photos: Yang Hui/GT

"The law enforcement personnel is still insufficient. We have only 418 people. It is a small team," Lu said.

She added that administratively, response time is slow. "We are not able to be on site within 5 minutes like police," Lu said.

Li Zhongyang, deputy director of  Shanghai Municipal Health Promotion Committee, said at the panel discussion, "we have been talking about the dangers of smoking to our health. If we don't amend the current regulation or follow the FCTC, many people in Shanghai can't protect their health when threatened by smoking. With this amendment, everyone can stand and speak for himself that there is a law in Shanghai, that you are not allowed to smoke indoors. It will affect health and our right as a citizen."

The number of smokers and non-smokers exposed to cigarette smoke is huge.

Bao Pingping from the Shanghai Municipal Center For Disease Control & Prevention said that statistics of 120 checkpoints show 20.9 percent of grown-ups in the city are smokers. Nearly 40 percent of males smoke, while 1 percent of females do.

The smoking rate in the lesser developed outskirts of the city exceeds downtown by 7 percent; overall in Shanghai, most smokers are aged between 45 to 59.

Bao also noted that the smoking rate is inversely proportional to education: manual laborers, service-industry workers and those without fixed employment are more likely to smoke.

Bao also said 41.1 percent of nonsmokers in Shanghai are exposed to secondhand smoke. In public places the exposure is relatively higher.

She said that the current law does not ban smoking completely in public spaces and areas open to the public. "In places like restaurants, public transportation hubs and workplaces, people are more likely be exposed to secondhand smoke," Bao said.

Kan Haidong, a professor at the School of Public Health at Fudan University, compared smoking control efforts to reactions about other environmental concerns.

"We all have a common ground toward the control of PM2.5 in the atmosphere. Why is it so difficult to have a common ground toward smoking control? Which one of them is worse to our health?" Kan asked at the panel discussion.

Kan cited research saying smoking was the third highest of cause of death in China, while PM2.5 ranked fourth.

"According to statistics, in China 1 million people die from smoking every year, one-eighth of total deaths," Kan said.

Another study on smoking and lung cancer showed that PM2.5 has caused 20 percent of lung cancer cases, while the smoking accounted for 40 percent.

"From all perspectives, smoking control is as important as the control of PM2.5," Kan said.

Kan said there is a quantitative experiment between PM2.5 and smoking.

"Smoking a cigarette is equivalent to being exposed to an environment with 670 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 for a whole day. The worst days in Beijing and Shanghai are just like that," Kan said.

Lü Ankang is a physician at Ruijin Hospital. Every Wednesday afternoon he sets up his clinic helping people quit smoking.

"As a doctor I am very sad to see young patients suffer from myocardial infarction because of smoking. Myocardial infarction is traditionally a disease of elder people. Now the patients are getting younger and younger. Recently I had a patient in his 20s. He has no problem of hypertension or diabetes. However several of his blood vessels have problems just because he smokes. He smokes two packs of cigarettes a day," Lü said.

To get the policy to ground, Zheng Pinpin, director of the Tobacco Control Research Center from the Health Communication Institute at Fudan University, said it is important to engage the public on the new amendments.

Zheng noted how Beijing mobilized the public in implementing its law.

"In Beijing there was a group of volunteers to engage the public. While the elders are square dancing, they wore T-shirts with slogans about smoking. On the LED screens in hospitals there is a continual broadcasting about the smoking-control law, reaching over 10 million people. I think this is what Shanghai can draw on for the next stage," Zheng said.

In 2015 Beijing banned smoking in all indoor public spaces and became the first city in China to comply with FCTC guidelines since China signed on in 2006.

Zheng said Shanghai has done some awareness-raising with the public. Last month, 500 people participated in a run along Riverside Avenue to support the amendment. Over half endorsed a smoke-free Shanghai through social media.

"I think we have a good beginning and a grounded popularity among people. We can continue doing it, " Zheng said.

Wang Di, a professor from Fudan University, agreed. She said that anti-smoking efforts need coordination of several public departments and good public participation.

"In Beijing we have the capital's social security guards - residents in Chaoyang district. Why can't we have residents in Jing'an district help enforce the law? Beijing has done a fine and great job in mobilizing the public. Can we also mobilize the power of the public? I think we should have a close and more fun approach to the public. It may have a better impact in the aspect of propagation," Wang said.

Bernhard Schwartländer, the World Health Organization's representative in China, said he looked forward to the amendments' passing.

"The most important thing is the articles in the amendments are reserved and passed with no exception or loophole," Schwartländer said in an article on thepaper.cn.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, City Panorama

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