Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Smoking Ban?

I find this BBC report of a ban on smoking in most public places in China to be brought in on the 1st of May a bit hard to credit.

Anyone familiar with China will also be familiar with the all-encompassing pall of cigarette smoke that surrounds most restaurants and bars, particularly late at night. School campuses (see picture above) and hospitals are the one possible exception to this.

On top of this, smoking plays a role in social interaction which means it will be more difficult to introduce such a ban that it was in New York, or in the UK. It is a common gesture among men at least to offer cigarettes as a sign of friendship, and for a man to turn down such an offer is likely to cause a very mild degree of offence. Whilst I do not generally like offering up a saying as an indication of how an entire culture works, the popular Chinese saying "烟酒不分家" (my trans.: "neither alcohol nor tobacco divide a home" - although there are other interpretations) says a lot.

Will the Chinese really abandon smoking in pubs and clubs after the 1st of May this year? My guess is that this law will be enforced to about the same degree that Chinese laws on DVD piracy and prostitution are enforced - that is, not a lot.

[Picture: A pack of double-happiness cigarettes, apparently from Taiwan. Via Wikicommons.]

1 comment:

justrecently said...

I agree - this isn't going to happen in too many places. A few chique places will leap at it and enforce it; most places will simply ignore it, and there will be no enforcements, except for settling one or another small unsettled bill between people.

It's a bit like banning pyjamas in the streets of Shanghai, or bikes in its streets (I'm not sure if the pyjama ban became a law or regulation; the bike ban, of course, couldn't become law anyway).

It's about image. The BBC report says that smoking will remain permitted in working places. (Sure - after all, tourists are unlikely to walk into too many workshops or offices, and foreign business people who are new to China will have to get used to it.)