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.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.