Chinese court orders enforcement of smoking ban on ordinary trains

Photo: CCTV

A court in Beijing on Monday ordered the railway authorities in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province to eliminate smoking areas and remove ashtrays on an ordinary train to provide a better traveling environment for passengers.

The Beijing Railway Transport Court issued the order to China Railway Harbin Group Co. in a ruling that said "people's rights sometimes come into conflict in a closed space, such as trains," adding that"passengers' right to health should have precedence over smokers' right to smoke."

While travelling from Beijing to Tianjin on train K1301 in June last year, a female passenger surnamed Li found that many passengers were smoking around the ashtrays between the carriages, even though the company's safety instructions said that "smoking was banned everywhere on the train."

Li argued that the existence of ashtrays went against relevant rules and regulations and the presence of the pungent smell of cigarette smoke on the train endangered her health.

After filing a series of complaints and getting no useful response, she decided to sue the bureau. The lawsuit was heard last December.

During the trial, Li demanded compensation for her ticket of 102.5 yuan ($13), 3,000 yuan for her legal expenses and 1 yuan as compensation for her mental suffering from smokers on the train.

She also requested the court to order the bureau to demolish its smoking areas and remove ashtrays on the train.

Sun Weihong, the bureau's attorney, told the court that the authorities had taken measures to eliminate smoking, including informing passengers not to smoke.

The court ruled in favor of Li on Monday on her main complaint.

Its verdict said that the bureau had "violated a passenger transport regulation in which train operators are required to provide a traveling environment for passengers that ensures transport safety."

However, Li did not prove that she was harmed by the smoking, "so the bureau doesn't need to pay the compensation," the verdict added.

Li did not appear in court on Monday. Her lawyer, Zhong Lan'an, said he was satisfied with the ruling, "as my client's major request that there should be no smoking on the train was accepted."

In China, smoking ban is strictly enforced on high-speed trains, but not on ordinary trains. Li's case can be considered to be the first lawsuit in which ordinary trains are ordered to prohibit smoking.

The case has been reported by mainstream media outlets in China following the court's ruling., the website of Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily, praised the court's verdict in a commentary on Tuesday, saying that "so-called national conditions should not be the excuses for not improving service quality."

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