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Beijing Bans Smoking in Cabs in Run-up to Olympics

Beijing has banned smoking in the city's 66,000 cabs amid efforts to help create a "non-smoking" Olympic Games in 2008.

The ban, enforced from Oct. 1, imposes a fine of 100 yuan to 200 yuan (US$13-26) on drivers if they are caught smoking in cabs.

Passengers are also prohibited from smoking in cabs. "If they violate the regulation, their names will be exposed through media," Ma Yanjie, deputy head of the Taxi Management Department of the Beijing Municipal Transportation Administration Bureau, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

A striking, green color "No Smoking" sign has been posted inside most of the cabs to remind the drivers and passengers.

Most of the drivers and passengers interviewed by Xinhua in the past two days expressed support for the ban.

"As a driver, I myself will surely obey the new regulations, and the passengers will also keep an eye on me," a cab driver surnamed Tian said on Tuesday. "Likewise, I also feel justified now to stop my passengers from smoking."

"The problem is that I actually have no way to report smoking passengers who turn a deaf ear to me, because I'm not entitled to ask their personal information such as his name and ID card number, and I can't tell him to get off," he said.

The smoking ban in cabs is the latest move taken by Beijing to ensure a "non-smoking" Olympics and "Green Olympics."

In his meeting with World Health Organization Director-General Lee Jong-Wook in 2004, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said a "non-smoking" Games is on top of the agenda for the country's preparations for a "Green Olympics."

As the host city, Beijing started a drive banning smoking in hospitals, schools, restaurants, government offices and private organizations and other places in April amid efforts to fulfill its commitment.

The municipal government has also drafted a set of regulations banning smoking at Olympic venues, athletes accommodation areas, and within vehicles designated to serve the event, Jin Dapeng, head of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, has said.

Sales of cigarettes would also be banned in all venues, and training and accommodation areas.

Nevertheless, implementation of the smoking ban may face hurdles in Beijing, where almost half the male population are smokers, according to a survey conducted by Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

The concept of a "non-smoking" Olympics, initiated in 1988, has been put into practice since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Next year's event will be the first "non-smoking" Olympic Games after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), of which China is a signatory, went into effect in 2005.

The government has pledged that all types of tobacco advertising and promotions will have to disappear by 2011 in accordance with its obligations under the FCTC.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicates that 350 million people in China, about 26 percent of the country's population and a third of the world's smoking population, are hooked on nicotine and about 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases each year.

(Xinhua News Agency October 3, 2007)

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