Beijing, the capital city of China, is moving rapidly towards banning smoking. It’s part of an ambitious attempt to curb a habit that has taken its toll on the health of Chinese citizens.
For years, Chinese health experts have pressed government officials to do something about the country’s devastating addiction to smoking. Currently, it’s estimated that more than 300 million Chinese citizens–almost the entire population of the United States–are smokers. Of course, that also means millions more are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.
Part of the problem is the cheap cost of smoking–it costs just five yuan, or about 80 U.S. cents–to buy a pack of cigarettes in China. However, the other part of the problem is where and when people can smoke, unlike the United States and Canada, there are relatively few restrictions on where and when someone can “light up.”
But that’s about to change. Starting now, anyone who is caught smoking in a public place (i.e., restaurant, school, or hospital) will face a fine of about 200 yuan, or $32.25 USD. It might not sound like much, but that’s actually 20 times the current penalty for public smoking.
Furthermore, if one is caught breaking the law three times, they could be called out through a government website. Any business that turns its back on smoking will receive a fine of 10,000 yuan, or about $1,600 USD.
Although the penalties are modest, many anti-smoking advocates are excited about the new rules. “I think this time it’s really big, and it will definitely be very serious,” noted Xu Jingyuan, a 25-year-old saleswoman based in Beijing. “They’ve already started out quite strictly with the policy this time.”