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New Smoking Ban Cuts Beijing's Fire Alarms

Beijing's new smoking ban, applicable since May 1 in public places including hotels and parks, has cut the city's fire alarms by half, the local fire control authority said.

In the first week of May, the Beijing fire brigade put out eight cigarette-related fires, an average of 1.14 per day, the Beijing Fire Control Bureau said in a press release on Saturday.

The new daily average was about half of what was reported in the first four months of this year, when the city's fire brigade had to put out 325 fires caused by cigarette butts, or 2.16 per day, it said.

The bureau said fewer people are seen smoking in public after the new ban took effect, and as a result, the risk of fires caused by randomly deserted cigarette butts has been reduced.

The new smoking ban, a follow-up to the 1996 regulation, has put more public places as smoking-free areas, including fitness centers, cultural relic sites, offices, meeting rooms, dining halls, toilets, and aisles and lifts in buildings belonging to government or private institutions.

In addition, restaurants, Internet cafes, parks, waiting halls at airports, railway stations and coach stations are also requiredto provide separate smoking and non-smoking areas.

Individuals caught smoking in the forbidden areas will be fined10 yuan (US$1.4), while enterprises and institutions that violate the rule face fines ranging between 1,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan.

The ban is China's latest effort to honor its commitment of a smoking-free Olympic Games in August, and part of the country's long-term campaign to promote its citizens' health.

Smoking was to blame for 7.3 percent of all the 60,165 fire disasters across China in the first four months of this year, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

(Xinhua News Agency May 12, 2008)

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