Shanghai to extend its public smoking ban to city's parks

Authorities in Shanghai have launched a pilot project to extend the city's smoking ban to its parks under a new code released on Wednesday.

According to the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Landscaping and City Appearance, the city is still deciding on a park in which to test the policy, which would include the construction of smoking areas, but the ban is expected to be gradually implemented in all Shanghai parks.

The city followed Beijing and Shenzhen in March last year with a total ban on smoking in public places and workspaces.

Figures from the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning show a sharp decline of smoking in indoor public spaces. Smoking has been banned in more than 88 percent of indoor public places.

In 2017, penalties for illegal smoking were reinforced. Fines for smoking in 1,133 public places - either of violators of the regulation or others who failed to prevent smokers from lighting up (such as restaurants) - totaled nearly 2.6 million yuan ($410,000). The amount approximated the cumulative total from 2010 to 2016.

Li Shi of Shanghai, who has been a smoker for seven years, said he smokes less since the implementation of the regulation.

"I used to smoke six cigarettes every day, but now it's fewer than six a week," said Li.

Despite the success, experts warn that regulations alone are not enough.

"Smoking is addictive and difficult to quit," said Fu Hua, professor of Fudan University's Public Health School. "Though the number of indoor smokers has fallen, more have shifted their smoking outdoors."

"A combination of regulations, law enforcement and health education is needed to beat smoking over the long term."

Ma Jie from Shanghai agreed.

"The regulation ignores outdoor public places where the health risks of secondhand smoke are gradually increasing," Ma said. "Besides making regulations, authorities should teach those smokers specific ways to quit, which is the foundation of a clean smoke-free environment."

According to Zheng Pinpin, director of Fudan University's Health Communication Research Center, there are nearly 300 million smokers in China. Shanghai was home to around 4.9 million of them in 2017 - nearly 24 percent of its population.

"It's really hard to regulate the behavior of all smokers solely through regulations," Zheng said.

More help may be coming. In Beijing, for instance, the government provides free services to help people quit smoking - for taxi drivers, for example - since the city took the lead in banning smoking in indoor public spaces in 2015.

Citizens get service kits at anti-smoking clinics, three-month drug treatments and six-month follow-up services, all free of charge.

A report by Chaoyang Hospital in February showed that 105 taxi drivers received the free service, and more than two-thirds of them had quit after one or two months.

"Smoking cessation drugs should be included in the healthcare system for the sake of patients who want to quit smoking," Zheng said.

caochen@chinadaily.com.cn


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