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Tobacco control legislation in Beijing benefits millions

Landmark tobacco control legislation in Beijing benefits millions

MANILA, 5 June 2015 - Today, people living in the fifth most populous city in the world may breathe a little easier. Sweeping tobacco control measures came into effect in Beijing, China on 1 June that ban smoking in all indoor public places including restaurants, offices and on public transportation – with no exceptions. Violators face stiff fines -20 times higher than before- as the city moves to curb smoking among its almost 20 million residents. The ban extends to some outdoor public places such as the vicinity of schools, historical and cultural sites, stadiums and fitness centres, and maternal and child health facilities. The law also includes tough penalties for owners and managers of premises who do not comply – up to 10 000 renminbi (approximately USD 1600).

“Beijing is the first megacity in Asia to go smoke free and signals to other cities in the world that bold tobacco control measures are possible,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “Tobacco continues to be a significant threat to public health, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths every year in China,” noted Dr Shin, who was in Beijing to mark the law’s passage at the city’s iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.

These bold measures include the removal of “smoking rooms” in airports, a feat that places China in the forefront of countries with strong comprehensive smoke-free policies. Beijing’s achievement, alongside the growing achievements of other cities in the Smoke-Free Cities ASEAN Network (SCAN), highlights the critical role of city mayors and governors in moving the smoke-free agenda forward. The network recently held its third regional workshop in Iloilo City, Philippines, bringing together civic leaders and public health advocates. With political will and dynamic leadership, cities are at times able to create smoke-free regulations more quickly than national governments.

Even on Beijing’s most heavily polluted day, the air inside a smoke-filled restaurant or bar is far worse than the air outside. Approximately 100 000 people die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke in China. Since the law’s enactment, Beijing’s residents will inhale 7000 less chemicals and 70 less carcinogens when they wake up – a far cry from what used to be the norm.

Finally, the law also prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors, at or within 100 metres of kindergartens/primary schools/children’s places and through vending machines and the Internet. Tobacco advertising, promotion and "title" sponsorship have also been prohibited.

The Beijing Government is raising awareness about the law through mass media and social media, complemented by the high profile Weibo campaign of the office of the WHO representative in China. Weibo is a popular microblogging website in China. To enforce the law, the government is training several thousand inspectors to inspect venues and issue fines, and mobilizing thousands of community volunteers.

"The Beijing law has set a very high bar – and we look forward to other cities in the Region following Beijing's excellent example," concluded Dr Shin.

ENDS

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