by Xinhua writers Xu Lingui, Shen Yang
NANCHANG, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Lawmakers in an east China city are close to voting on the country's toughest law to ban smoking in offices, restaurants, bars and all indoor public places, officials said Wednesday, months after the draft was shelved because it proved too controversial.
The Regulation on the Control of Harm Posed by Second-hand Smoke, if passed by the legislature of Nanchang City on Friday, will be the strictest of its kind in a country with the world's largest number of smokers and a deep-rooted smoking culture.
Public health experts say the legislation is "pivotal" in the tobacco-control crusade and may jump-start a nationwide campaign to provide comprehensive protection for an estimated 740 million people who are exposed to second-hand smoke, according to statistics collected by Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (China CDC).
"We plan to resume deliberating, and hopefully to pass the bill on Friday," said Xu Yongli, an official with the Municipal People's Congress of Nanchang, in Jiangxi Province.
The draft regulation requires a total ban on smoking in 11 categories of public places, including offices, schools, medical institutes, public transport, malls, sports venues and Internet cafes once it is enacted.
The ban will be extended to hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, beauty salons, mahjong houses and other entertainment venues from Jan. 1, 2013. Wet markets are also included.
Owners or managers of indoor venues will be fined up to 5,000 yuan (758 U.S. dollars) if their premises are in violation of the ban, according to the draft. Individuals who light up in smoke-free areas will be fined 50 yuan.