Beijing cabs declared smoke-free zone

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BEIJING, Oct 2 (Reuters) Beijing has banned smoking in taxis, as it tries to clean up the capital and its citizens' habits ahead of next year's Olympic Games, state media said today.

From this month drivers caught smoking in cabs will be fined up to 200 yuan, the official Xinhua agency reported, while lighting up is also off-limits for passengers.

Beijing, keen to ensure nothing mars the city's image ahead of the Olympic Games, has launched a number of etiquette drives in recent months, focused on spitting, queuing and littering.

The city government is also drawing up a set of regulations banning smoking and sales of cigarettes at Olympic venues and athletes accommodation areas, a senior Beijing health official was quoted as saying.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had said in 2004 when meeting with World Health Organisation Director-General Lee Jong-Wook that a ''non-smoking'' Games was on top of the agenda for the country's preparations, Xinhua said.

The capital in April started a drive banning smoking in hospitals, schools, restaurants, government offices and other places, to help fulfil that commitment, the report added.

Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of more than 300 million, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health concerns.

The country needs to rein in smoking or the habit could end up killing 2.2 million Chinese a year by 2020, the World Health Organisation said in May.

A senior official from China's State Tobacco Monopoly warned earlier this year that smoking was so pervasive in China that efforts to curb it would upset social stability.

REUTERS SSC KN1640

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