Environmental protection NGO sues China Railway over smoking area on train
Published: Jan 07, 2021 12:06 AM

Screenshot from Sina Weibo

A non-governmental organization focused on environmental protection filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against a local bureau of China Railway for setting up smoking areas on trains with slower services, the Global Times has learned. 

According to Beijing's No.4 Intermediate People's Court, the NGO, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation sued the Lanzhou bureau in Northwest China's Gansu Province under China Railway for setting up a smoking area and providing cigarette utensils on trains with slower services despite the national move to ban smoking on high speed trains. 

It is the country's first public interest litigation case since the Civil Code came into force on January 1, the court said. 

The NGO told the Global Times on Wednesday that from the beginning of 2019 to January 2020, many passengers reported to the organization that when taking children on ordinary trains, they often encountered smokers in the smoking area and carriage junction without any supervision, resulting in extremely poor air quality.

"Our field investigations showed that two trains passing by stations in Beijing, Shacheng, Xuanhua and Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province have not only allowed passengers to smoke in the designated areas, but also in sleeping and washing areas. Many minors could be spotted on the trains," a staff member from the NGO said. 

A portable air monitor showed that the air pollution index in the middle of the train doubled when someone was smoking at the train entrance, with the PM2.5 reading 9.66 times higher than when no one was smoking, the staff member said. 

Smoking section on trains. Photo: Courtesy of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation

The case is currently ongoing.

Since 2018, nearly 90 percent of Chinese railways have been subject to anti-smoking regulations, but enforcement remains poor, particularly on slower services.

State and local tobacco control policies require that station waiting areas, platforms and train cars must be smoke free. But compliance is far from satisfactory, according to research released by the tobacco control department of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Currently, 21 cities in China ban smoking in indoor public areas. Another five cities have prohibited tobacco use on public transportation, according to media reports. 

China prohibits smoking on airlines and high-speed trains, but slower trains that carry more than one-third of the total 3 billion train passengers in China still have smokers on a daily basis, according to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.
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