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New Bid to Ban Smoking in Public

Thirty national legislators have proposed a ban on smoking in public, but concede imposing such a rule would be hard habit to crack in China, which has an estimated 350 million smokers.

In a motion before the National People's Congress the legislators claimed as many as 600 million Chinese people are exposed to passive smoke, putting them at risk of getting lung cancer.

The health and rights of non-smokers should be protected, they said.

"Some of the 30 deputies who proposed the motion are also smokers, but they believe that smokers have no right to harm non-smokers," Yuan Jinghua, one of the National People's Congress deputies said.

Yuan said it would not be easy to impose such a law, as it would take some getting used to for many of China's smokers who are used to puffing away in public.

"Such a law will certainly limit the activities of smokers, but this must be done as we build a harmonious society," said she.

"A law to forbid smoking is needed in public areas, just like traffic laws are needed on the road."

Under the proposed laws public areas would include offices, schools, and waiting rooms of train and bus stations.

At a CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) discussion last week, deputy chief of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration Zhang Baozhen said China "needed" the tobacco industry and China's stability could be "threatened" if the government tried to curb smoking.

Yuan dismissed the claims, saying she didn't believe banning smoking in public would threaten the stability of the society. She admitted the laws would have to be rolled out gradually.

Ni Yijin, former director general of State Tobacco Monopoly Administration and a CPPCC member of the economy circle, said he generally agreed with the motion to ban public smoking, though he questioned whether some figures in the motion were based on objective research.

"Smoking is certainly harmful to people, and that's why we have the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration to control the sale of cigarettes," Ni said.

"Smokers and non-smokers should respect each other, especially in public areas."

He said the National People's Congress should solicit opinions widely before making a law on the restriction of smoking in public.

(China Daily March 17, 2007)

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