China Olympics to be a vast No-Smoking Zone

Or so they are claiming, not very convincingly.

China vowed on Monday to organize a “non-smoking” Olympic Games, but health officials admitted that changing the habits of 350 million smokers would be difficult. China would enforce a ban on smoking in public places, a Health Ministry official told a news conference on Monday, with those places that offer services to children a top concern.

“Smoking will be banned at all Olympic-designated hospitals by the end of 2007,” Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Bin as saying. The ban would also apply to public transport and in offices, Zhang said, acknowledging that changing habits would be hard.

“China faces many obstacles to overcome in hosting a non-smoking Olympics,” he said.

The ministry’s vow comes as Beijing passes the 10th anniversary of its ban on smoking in public places. In practice, many of the capital’s millions of smokers habitually ignore the bans given that they run only a slight risk of punishment or complaint from bystanders.

I’ve seen Chinese smoke in every kind of public place, right in front of the no-smoking signs, including on elevators (cupping the cigarette inside their palm and smelling up the elevator for everyone else) and in office hallways. I’ve seen them smoking (or trying to) in steam baths. The idea of a non-smoking olympics in Beijing is quaint. I just don’t understand why they’re setting themselves up for ridicule like this, making announcements they can’t possibly support.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Smoking they can ban [see aircraft etc]. But spitting?

May 30, 2006 @ 5:40 am | Comment

Because it is easy to enforce a no-smoking ban in an aircraft. The space is limited, and the ratio of passengers to flight attendants is not that exaggerated (1 per 50 people maybe). Try enforcing a ban throughout all of the public places of the Olympics when there are hundreds of thousands of visitors. Do you really think the police will be caring about smoking when there are so many other more serious crimes to be watched out for? The idea is laughable.

May 30, 2006 @ 7:46 am | Comment

I don’t know, I think just putting it out there is worth something. Remember how everyone laughed and/or predicted disaster for LA’s law prohibiting smoking in bars? Speaking as someone who used to play in a band and who would go home nights after gigs, coughing and reeking of smoke, I can tell you that the ban ended up working really well, it did not hurt bars’ business, and it certainly helped improve the health of patrons and workers (which was the main reason for these laws getting passed – potential workers’ comp/lawsuits).

I’m sure this ban is unenforceable as written and in the present time. But with smoking such a huge health issue in China, I applaud the attempt. You have to start somewhere, and maybe getting people used to the idea that you can’t just smoke anywhere you damn please is a good start.

May 30, 2006 @ 10:12 am | Comment

Maybe some self-help will be the order of the day with the official ban as a back up for people to call smokers on their ugly habit. Just ask people to put it out. I do in elevators or on trains and it has worked in most occasions, although there is some reluctance to be sure. But if there is a sign I have found I can win the batle of wills.

Recently, at a workout club I go to with no smoking signs I found a guy smoking in the mens’ locker room. No hesitation to ask him to stop. He puffed some more , but I was insistent and another Chinese spoke up in their language and the smoker gave it up.

May 30, 2006 @ 10:21 am | Comment

Yes, it will be interesting to see if the Beijing police will be able, or even willing, to enforce such a ban. In China, such ‘public nuisance’ laws are usually mere displays of concern without any kind of enforcement backing them up. I guess it’s part of the game where politicians can point to the signs as proof of how much they are doing for the people (without actually doing anything). I recall seeing ‘Don’t litter’ signs around West Lake a few years back. Cleaners still needed shovels to pick up all the trash that people tossed on the grounds around the lake and in the water.

May 30, 2006 @ 1:06 pm | Comment

In Beijing, what the hell does it matter if anyone smokes? The air pollution will still kill you.

May 30, 2006 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

They could hire more laid-off workers as commissioned fine collectors for various sites and as an incentive, a large potion of fine goes to commission. One stone kills two birds, you never know.

May 31, 2006 @ 12:10 am | Comment

Actually, Sepa, I was thinking along similar lines (scary!). I mean, one thing China has is workers…

Richard, remember that one policeman who was so vested in making sure that people waited in proper lines at the railway station? He was swimming against the tide, but determined, dammit!

May 31, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Comment

I was in a hospital here in Xinjiang last year when I saw something shocking: doctors gathered in the hallways having a smoke. In a fucking hospital! Sheesh.

May 31, 2006 @ 4:27 am | Comment


‘gasping for breath…’


no smoking, thats a good one.

May 31, 2006 @ 8:05 am | Comment

Yes Lisa, that guard was an inspiration. I wouldn’t want his thankless job, struggling all day to keep a mob of Chinese people from cutting the line. My heart goes out to him. (Sorry everyone else if this makes no sense – you had to be there.)

May 31, 2006 @ 9:07 am | Comment

My favorite place to see Chinese men smoke: in Shanghai’s largest flower market.

Hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of fragrant, blooming flowers … and guys puffing on their smokes.

Like watching someone calmly sipping dirt water while canoeing through a sea of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

May 31, 2006 @ 10:20 am | Comment

Richard or Lisa, what it this story about the cop at the railstation? I’d like to read about it.

May 31, 2006 @ 6:41 pm | Comment

We were trying to buy tix at the railway station from Hangzhou back to Shanghai. Most people were waiting patiently in line – in rather long lines – but there was the contingent that just couldn’t wait and were blatantly pushing their way to the front of the line and cutting in front of everyone. What really floored us was how few people up in front, who had stood there patiently and followed the rules, did not object to this behavior. Richard and I, on the other hand, used every dirty elbow trick we had to keep line cutters from getting in front of us.

There was this one cop, and it was his job to maintain order and keep people from cutting. And he was just righteous about it! No one was gonna cheat and cut on HIS watch!

A few people got away with it because he couldn’t be everywhere at once, but he sent all kinds of scofflaws to the back of the line.

He wasn’t an asshole or brutal about it, but he was damned firm and he did yell when he needed to.

May 31, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

It was really a dramatic sight – there were about 8 long separate lines, contained by metal railings, and this poor officer had to run from one line to the next to force the line cutters back to the end of the line. As he walked away from a line, the same exact line cutters he’d just sent back tried to sneak up AGAIN to the front – they had no shame. And these were young people. And the people at the front sheepishly allowed them to cut in front of them. Thank God for that one officer, who kept insisting that people follow the rules. His behavior was inspiring, while that of the cutters, who felt they were better than the rest of us and didn’t need to wait behind others, was despicable.

May 31, 2006 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

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