Worried About China’s Air Pollution? The WHO Says Smoky Restaurants Are Even Worse

Which has the worst air quality: Beijing on a bad air pollution day or a restaurant with smokers?

The answer is the one with the smokers, according to the World Health Organization. The measure of fine, hazardous particulates in the air, known as PM 2.5 because they are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, reaches around 600 when there are just three smokers puffing away in a room, said Bernhard Schwartländer, the World Health Organization’s representative in China at an event Wednesday. Mr. Schwartländer didn’t specify the size of the room. He said that the PM 2.5 level goes up to 1,200 when there are five smokers present and up to 5,000 when there are 20.

The worst days in Beijing reach a PM 2.5 of 500 and the average levels in the city are just under 90, Mr. Schwartländer said.

“I don’t understand,” said Mr. Schwartländer, adding “Why don’t we see the same outcry that we see with the air pollution?” People make documentaries to draw attention to the air problems and wear masks to reduce their exposure, but they don’t draw attention to the harms of smoking and the millions of deaths it causes, he said. Every 30 seconds someone in China dies as a result of tobacco use, he said. Mr. Schwartländer argued there should be more outrage when people smoke near children or are exposed to second-hand smoke, adding, “The only way we can explain is that people simply don’t know.”

The World Health Organization is trying to clear the air by shining a light on the negative health impacts of smoking, just as Beijing prepares to implement its indoor smoking ban on June 1. The citywide ban takes aim at restaurants, bars and other indoor spots and officials can fine offenders 200 yuan (about $33) for individuals and 10,000 yuan for organizations and companies.

The WHO is also tapping celebrities like singer Zhang Liangying and real estate mogulPan Shiyi to  promote the ban and ensure it has advocates. Health experts say they are concerned about the efficacy of the forthcoming ban, which isn’t Beijing’s first.Previous ones failed due to lack of legal enforcement and public support, they say.

Government officials, also at the event Wednesday, conceded that it’ll be hard to stub out the butts. Beijing alone has 4 million smokers, said Fang Laiying, Director General of the Beijing Health and Family Planning Commission. Smokers will be resistant and feel that their own rights are being violated, Mr. Fang said. He said he’s reminding people that the government isn’t taking away their freedom but is instead protecting their right to health.

China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of tobacco, home to more than 300 million smokers and 43% of the world’s cigarette production, according to the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation.

Mr. Pan says he’ll enforce the new rule at his SOHO real estate complexes around the city, which are monolithic office and retail spaces, housing thousands of workers. He didn’t give any explicit details on how. The Beijing government launched this month an account on social messaging app WeChat, encouraging people to report violators and tattle on smokers who are caught in the act by uploading images or videos of them.

Mr. Fang said tattlers will not be financially rewarded, but the government does need help enforcing the ban. “We need buy in,” he said.

via Worried About China’s Air Pollution? The WHO Says Smoky Restaurants Are Even Worse – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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