According to Beijing's Vice Mayor Liu Jingmin, the city is mulling over a smoking ban on all Olympic Games venues, in a response to a political advisor's concern about the effects of widespread smoking behavior in public places.
"The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) is holding talks with the Health Ministry to create special smoking areas in the game venues, thus ensuring most places are free of any tobacco smoke," Liu said.
Zi Huajun, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), drafted a proposal illustrating that uncontrolled smoking is common among some Beijing residents.
"Smoking is often seen in places bearing clear non-smoking signs, " said Zi, who went on to point the finger at some CPPCC members and deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), who ignored signs warning against smoking in public places.
High-end restaurants and hotels are meant to restrict smoking, but few have yet cordoned off smoking areas, she said.
Liu Jingmin noted that the Olympic Games, the biggest sports event China has ever hosted, will not only reflect the nation's infrastructure and facilities, but serve as an example of its people's ethics and manners.
This debate has been part of Olympic preparations before with organizing tobacco-free Games topping China's agenda for preparing a green Olympiad.
Last May, the Ministry of Health pledged to impose a smoking ban by the end of 2007 on all hospitals that would be used specifically to serve the Games. The ministry added that this ban would also extend to public transport and buildings, particularly those with services catering to children.
The first non-smoking Olympiad, following the project's initiation in 1988, was held in Barcelona in 1992.
Such a feat will prove rather tougher for Beijing since China is thought to have 350 million smokers, translating as 26 percent of the country's population and a third of the world's total number of nicotine addicts.
China suffers from around 1 million deaths from smoking-related diseases each year, with this figure set to triple by 2050.
(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2007)