Beijing drops restaurants from proposed smoking ban, state media reports
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIJING - Beijing has backtracked on a proposed public smoking ban, saying restaurants will no longer be included due to concerns it will hurt their business, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.
Restaurants, bars and Internet cafes will be exempt from a recently announced ban on smoking in public places to start May 1, the China Daily reported.
They will now be asked only to have separate smoking and nonsmoking areas, it said.
"Originally, we wanted restaurants to keep 70 per cent of the areas smoke-free, but owners of Chinese restaurants - both big and small - worried the plan would hurt their business," Zhang Peili, an official with Beijing's municipal government supervising the rule, told the paper.
"It is difficult for us to control smoking in restaurants. It's just part of the culture," he said.
China is home to 350 million smokers - a third of the global total.
Beijing pledged to hold a smoke-free Olympics and last month proposed a smoking ban in government offices, sports venues, hospitals and museums.
Last week, Chinese media reported it would also be extended to elementary, secondary and primary school campuses.
Last October, Beijing banned smoking in the city's 66,000 taxis, threatening drivers with a $29 fine if they are caught.
In 2005, China ratified World Health Organization rules that urged it, within three years, to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship, put tougher health warnings on cigarettes and raise tobacco prices and taxes.
It also agreed to curb secondhand smoke, prohibit cigarette sales to minors and clamp down on smuggling of cigarettes.
© The Canadian Press, 2008