• Indoor smoking rule too heavy
  • China Daily 2010-05-19 09:09 Todd Balazovic
  • (Low carbon net news)There have been rumblings about banning smoking in Beijing for years, but the recent resurgence of the anti-smoking lobby has gone a bit over the top. Is it really conceivable to ban smoking from every indoor location?

    While I understand the need to ban smoking from certain locations, in hospitals and within the walls of the Ministry of Health for example, I don't understand why there has been a recent flurry of activity to ban smoking at every public four-walled room in the city.

    The push to eradicate smoking from indoors seems more of China aping the Western stigma toward smoking. Quite frankly, kowtowing to the World Health Organization's push to eradicate smoking culture across the globe doesn't suit Beijing in the slightest. China is one of the few remaining countries in the world where smoking has yet to become the "evil" preached by Western countries.

    The smoking culture is something deeply ingrained in Chinese society, one of the few places in the world where buying someone a packet of cigarettes as a gift is socially acceptable. Why change that?

    Of course the biggest concern is health. But to put it bluntly, cigarettes are aimed at adults who are capable of making adult decisions. At this point I don't think the fact smoking damages the human body is any sort of a secret. If someone wants to engage in an activity that harms him or her, he or she should heed the graphic warning printed on most cigarette packages - and continue to light up.

    Regarding the common argument that second-hand smoke is killing non-smokers, I think there is a sliver of validity. But most restaurants that allow smoking have a smoking section that's heavily ventilated. I think banning smoking indoors, rather than simply increasing regulations on indoor smoking, is like killing the dog to get to the flea - an overreaction of efforts for an otherwise easily solved problem.

    Social reasoning aside, think economically.

    In Beijing the industry is thriving. Cigarettes are a huge trade in Beijing and stopping indoor smoking would inevitably reduce cigarette sales dramatically.

    Then there's the "provincial pride" factor. Many provinces in China have their own brands of cigarettes, which give their residents that added edge in lighting up. Banning smoking in bars and restaurants would be a critical blow to the dining industry. There are countless individuals who would avoid a dining, or drinking, outside their homes if they couldn't light up.

    There are the hundreds of tobacco farmers throughout China who would suffer the repercussions of this newfound disgust for smoking. This is their livelihood.

    While I understand the reasons by health enthusiasts to want to push for a ban on indoor smoking, banning the activity outright just doesn't seem to click in one of the few remaining cultures where the activity is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

    Smoke on while you can, my friends.