Smokers Held by Police

Three smokers in Shanghai have been detained by police for lighting up in a downtown shopping center, it was revealed yesterday.

It’s Shanghai’s first case of detention used to punish people who ignore the ban on smoking at public places.

The three were caught when police and fire officials in plain clothes were conducting a safety inspection at the Fuyou Road small commodities market near Yuyuan Garden in Huangpu District.

Smoking in the shopping center, where most of the products on sale are flammable, plush toys for example, is banned under the city’s laws on smoking at public places.

On Thursday, a man, surnamed Ying, who works at a store in the center, was spotted smoking by inspectors. He was seen being asked by coworkers not to smoke but he just smiled and told them: “I will be careful. It’s fine.”

But when he noticed that the plain-clothes inspectors were taking photos of him as evidence he started to realize that he was in trouble.

The other two offenders were another shop worker, surnamed Qin, and a customer, surnamed Zhou.

A friend of Zhou’s said at the police station that they hadn’t seen any notices about a smoking ban at the center and Zhou was in need of a cigarette after being in the building for a long time.

“We thought nothing would happen,” the friend said. “If I knew it would turn out like this, I would have asked him to hold on for one more minute or walk outside to smoke.”

People who flout the city’s laws on smoking face fines of up to 200 yuan (US$30).

But smokers in areas where there are higher risks of fire can be detained for five days.

The Shanghai Public Smoking-Control Law applies to 12 types of public areas, including schools, hospitals, supermarkets, elevators and karaoke bars.

After the deadly high-rise complex blaze in Jing’an District on November 15, a series of safety inspections were launched, mainly targeting fire control facilities in construction sites, factories, high-rise buildings and densely populated areas.

On December 13, the Cloud Nine Shopping Center in Changning District was fined 100,000 yuan when fire exits were found locked and an escape route blocked.

On the same day 16 other shops were punished for breaching fire control regulations, with four people detained.

Safety checks will last through the Spring Festival which falls on February 3, according to the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau.

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