A railway court in Beijing is scheduled to hear a lawsuit against smoking on China's passenger trains recently, reports Beijing Youth Daily.
Li Jing (an alias), a college-bound student, filed the lawsuit to the Beijing Railway Transport Court against Harbin Railway Bureau for allowing passengers to smoke on a train it operates, after she failed to find a certain administration to solve the problem.
Li took the K1301 train from Beijing to Tianjin on June 9, 2017. She found her coach full of smoke as some passengers were smoking on the train. The smoke made her very uncomfortable, Li said.
According to Li, there were smoking areas on both K1301 and the train she took back to Beijing. No other passengers or staff members stopped the smokers, and some staff members even joined in to smoke. In addition, there were many people smoking on the platforms of the stations along the route, said Li.
Li said it was written clearly in the safety notices of the train she took that "smoking is banned in every area of the train"; however, there were smoking areas with smoking sets on the train. It was contradictory and had violated the law, she said.
In addition, smoking may cause fires and threaten public safety, Li argued.
Li demanded Harbin Railway Bureau refund 102.5 yuan (around 15 US dollars) for her tickets as well as covering her legal costs, close the smoking areas on the K1301 train and the platforms along the route, remove the smoking sets and ban smoking in aforementioned areas. She also demanded one yuan compensation for emotional damages and 19 yuan for the mask she bought to reduce the smoke she inhaled while on the trains.
Zhong Lan'an, Li's attorney agent, said smoking on train violates the smoking ban stipulated in the Regulations on the Administration of Sanitation at Public Places. In addition, the regulations on smoking control of both Beijing and Tianjin have banned smoking in public transportation, and have stipulated that staff members of the areas where smoking is banned have the duty to prevent smoking.
However, while the current Regulation on the Administration of Railway Safety clearly bans smoking on high-speed trains, smoking on regular trains is not strictly banned, said Zhong.
According to railway authorities, high-speed trains are equipped with many sensors; therefore, smoking will cause emergency stops of the trains and bring safety problems. In such cases, smoking should be strictly banned. For ordinary trains, which are not totally enclosed but spend much longer time between stations, smoking areas are set at the joints of coaches to prevent passengers from smoking in the coaches.
Zhong said such an arrangement only considers the benefits of smokers but ignores non-smokers. It is not proper for society to indulge smokers, he said.
Wang Zhenyu, another lawyer and also a committee member of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said it is the first time that the operator or administrator of a public area has been sued for failing to control smoking. He said the case will help promote smoking bans on ordinary trains if Li wins the lawsuit.