During the first five months of Beijing’s public-places tobacco-smoking ban, only 0.01 percent of the city’s smokers were fined for non-compliance.
This extremely low level of recorded non-compliance occurred despite the authorities having set up a hotline for reporting smokers and despite the fact that almost all law enforcement personnel in Beijing were charged with enforcing the ban during its first three months.
But this need not come as a surprise. Although attempts have been made in many parts of the world to denormalize smokers and to push them to the edges of society; they have consistently proved to be very law abiding – much more so than are, for instance, drivers.
And so it has proved in Beijing. During the first five months of the ban, only 217 organizations and 598 individuals were fined for non-compliance, according to a Xinhua News Agency story citing information provided by local authorities.
The ban, which has been in effect since June 1, prohibits tobacco smoking in all indoor public places, including workplaces and public transport facilities.
Individuals caught smoking tobacco where the ban is in force are liable to be fined up to Yuan200 (about US$31), while businesses are liable to be fined up to Yuan10,000 (about US$1,567) if they fail to discourage smoking on their premises.
The fines imposed during the five months to the end of October had added up to about Yuan570,000 (US$89,262), said Wang Benjin, deputy head of Beijing’s health inspection institute.
From June 1 to October 31 an anti-tobacco-smoking hotline had received 9,291 complaints, with government buildings and officials’ offices the focus of public attention, Wang said. Schools, hotels and hospitals were the most strict in enforcing the ban, while restaurants were the most lax.
Meanwhile, Zhang Jianshu, head of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said almost all law enforcement personnel in Beijing had been mobilized to enforce the tobacco smoking ban during the first three months after it took effect.
However, local residents were expected to take up more responsibility in the long run. “More than 10,000 volunteers have joined the force,” said Zhang. “They carry out secret inspections, dissuade smokers and report problematic organizations to health inspection departments.”