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Smoking ban begins in Beijing -

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Smoking ban begins in Beijing

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

ELEANORH HALL: In China anti-smoking campaigners have a long way to go.

People are accustomed to smoking everywhere - from lifts and offices to restaurants and even

But, from today, officials in Beijing have imposed new regulations to restrict public smoking,
ahead of the Olympic Games.

We're joined now in Beijing by the ABC's China Correspondent Stephen McDonell.

So Stephen, is this smoking ban being driven by the Olympics? Is there any doubt about that?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: There's no doubt its being driven by the Olympics, and I have to say from the
outset, a lot of people think this is a bit of a joke, really.

They don't anticipate that they're going to be heavily restricted in terms of their smoking as a
result of these regulations. Partly, it's because of the confusion surrounding the implementation
of these - I was going to say laws - but they're not really laws, they're just regulations.

For example, there's only one newspaper, one major newspaper here, has even reported this today,
that it starts today, and everyone else just seems to be ignoring it.

And in that one newspaper article, they've interviewed several of these sort of I guess inspectors,
who are supposedly going to enforce this, and they've said they don't even know how it is that they
going to be able to enforce it because they've got no sort of punishments to hand out.

So what it's more going to be like is them going around saying, "Now come on, you really shouldn't
be smoking in this hospital emergency room." Maybe something along those lines.

ELEANOR HALL: So is it all a PR exercise?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Look, it could well be. But, you know, to be fair, anti-smoking groups have at
least welcomed it as a first step and yesterday when I was at the Bird's Nest stadium, I did see an
official go up to an American cameraman and say, "You can't smoke here. This is an Olympic venue,
so put it out."

And he did, and the cameraman said, "oh well, fair enough". So I think in and around the Olympic
stadium and all these Olympic venues, it will be applied.

But the idea of getting restaurants, for example, to stop people from smoking, I think is not going
to happen.

ELEANOR HALL: Where are these new regulations meant to apply?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well, they cover all sorts of places, for example, offices, associations,
enterprises, schools, cultural institutions, and I think in these kinds of places, it may well have
some sort of an effect.

Like I can imagine that if a boss is going to be embarrassed by the fact that some of his employees
or her employees are still smoking when they're not supposed to be, well I think that just by
virtue of the boss walking around and saying, "Come on, put that out, indoors, in our office", it
probably will have an effect there.

Like I said, I think where it's much less likely to have any impact at all would be bars and
restaurants and places where people just expect smoking to take place.

ELEANOR HALL: And if they're just regulations, does this mean that they'll lapse once the games
have ended?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Yeah, I think they do just apply for the Olympic Games, but as with a lot of
things, like the reporting rules for foreign journalists, and other regulations, people expect that
some of these practices will be retained after the Olympic Games and look, it is a long way to go
in terms of reigning in public smoking in China.

But it is a bit of a step in the right direction, and I think that if people sort of get it into
their heads, "Well, hang on, I'm in a library, I can't smoke", or something like that, then there
will be flow on effects, and I think it probably will change people's attitude, at least a little

ELEANOR HALL: I'm sure you'll be able to monitor it for us. Stephen McDonell in Beijing, thank you.


ELEANOR HALL: That's Stephen McDonell, our Beijing Correspondent.