Smoking rule has little effect
Updated: 2012-09-18 01:21
By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou (China Daily)
A new regulation that allows law enforcement personnel to fine people smoking in public places without first warning them appears to have had limited effect in its first few weeks.
A local restaurant customer lights up outside an establishment after Guangzhou ruled that smoking in banned areas, including inside a restaurant, could be fined 50 yuan effective the beginning of this month. CHEN QIUMING / YANGCHENG EVENING NEWS
The revised regulation, which took effect on Sept 1 in Guangzhou, authorizes chengguan, officers who enforce city laws, to immediately issue a 50 yuan ($7.9) fine for smoking in public places.
Previously, officers first had to warn the smokers and could fine them only if they ignored the warning.
But the new regulation had little effect because of the lax enforcement in some areas and strong resistance among smokers.
The Guangzhou chengguan declined to say on Monday how many people had been found violating the new rule or been fined.
But insiders said few smokers were penalized in the past weeks.
Even on the day the new regulation took effect, officers met strong resistance when they patrolled the city's karaoke bars and restaurants to enforce the anti-smoking rule.
Many smokers in VIP rooms refused to open the doors when law enforcement personnel arrived, according to Zhao Hong, deputy director of the Guangzhou chengguan.
"The fine could be issued only when the officers were called to the scene," Zhao told local media.
Only 44 smokers were fined on Sept 1 — in the city with around 2 million smokers, about 18 percent of the city population — according to the law enforcement office.
In Baiyun and Nansha districts and in Zengcheng, a suburb of Guangzhou, no one was fined on the first day. Law enforcement personnel there were later ordered to intensify their crackdown on violations.
To bolster enforcement of the new regulation, the Guangzhou city government plans to soon establish a 100-member group to patrol public places and penalize smokers.
Restaurants, bars, cinemas and karaoke venues will be their main inspection targets in the following months.
Han Zhipeng, a member of the city's political advisory body, said he was in favor of directly fining smokers in the city's non-smoking areas without giving a warning.
"The mere 50 yuan penalty is not severe enough," he added.
He called for more concrete and effective measures to be introduced to help fight smoking in public places.
But some residents said they fear the new regulation will not work in the long term. Guo Weiying, an office worker, said the regulation is good news for most Guangzhou residents, but a disaster for the city's smoking group.
"I worry whether the new anti-smoking rule will have any staying power," she said.
"Many law enforcement agencies in the city are usually lax on punishing public smoking," she said.
Zeng Xingming, a restaurant owner in Guangzhou's Baiyun district, expected the regulation's impact on his business to be short-lived.
"Our restaurant's business will soon get back to normal, because the new anti-smoking regulation does not target just my restaurant," he said.
"It's fair when all restaurants are treated equally, and I never worry about my restaurant's future business," he added.
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