For years, health activists have campaigned for stronger smoking restrictions in China, the largest tobacco consumer in the world and it appears that these efforts are already making an impact.

Beijing will roll out smoking ban in restaurants, public transport and offices on June 1, a move that prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to commend the city on World No Tobacco Day on Sunday.

The ban will be the country's toughest ban on smoking to date and according to WHO, is compliant with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and is anticipated to have a major impact on the health of the millions of people who live in Beijing once it is fully implemented.

"We applauded Beijing for its strong and determined leadership in protecting the health of its people by making public places smoke-free. We are delighted to be formally recognizing the Beijing Municipal Government with a WHO World No Tobacco Day Award," said WHO Western Pacific Regional Office Regional Director Shin Young-soo.

Those who will violate the ban will pay 200 yuan ($32.25), a far steeper price for violators compared with the current fine of only 10 yuan ($1.60).

Those who violate the law twice will be identified on a government website. Failure to stop smoking in their premises could also lead to businesses getting fined up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600).

Cigarettes will also be prohibited from being sold to shops located within 100 meters of primary schools and kindergartens.

Beijing's airport will close three smoking rooms found in its three terminals following the implementation of the ban. Eleven smoking spaces will be opened outside though. New outdoor smoking areas will also be made available in over 600 bus stops around the capital.

Those who advocate against tobacco expressed their confidence in the government's will in enforcing the ban after a series of tough measures that were adopted in recent months including higher tobacco tax.

"We couldn't say this is the strongest law in the world," said Angela Pratt, from WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. "But it's certainly up there with the strongest, in that there are no exemptions, no exceptions and no loopholes on the indoor smoking ban requirement."

Smoking is considered a major health crisis in China with the country having over 300 million smokers and millions more exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking has been associated with a number of health problems including increased risks for cancer.

Photo: Fried Dough | Flickr

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