Verdict can ensure smoke-free railways
In June last year, a college student sued the Harbin Railway Bureau of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province because of the secondhand smoke she was forced to inhale on a train. The student claimed compensation of 102.5 yuan ($15.54), the price of her ticket, plus 1 yuan for mental distress, and sought the removal of all the smoking zones and ashtrays in the bureau's railway stations and trains. The court ruled on Tuesday that the Harbin Railway Bureau should cancel the smoking zones and remove the ashtrays. Legal Daily comments:
The judgment is meaningful as it is the first time that a railway department has been instructed by a court to ban smoking in its stations and on the trains it operates, which is directly related to the health and safety of hundreds of millions of passengers.
According to the Railway Safety Administration Regulation that came into effect on Jan 1, 2014, smoking is strictly banned on high-speed trains and in the carriages of normal trains, it is permitted in the connecting areas between carriages on normal trains, where ashtrays are installed. But the smoke from there slowly permeates the carriages, making all passengers victims of secondhand smoking.
The railway authorities cite public health and the fire risk as reasons to ban smoking in the carriages of normal trains, without explaining why that does not apply to the carriage connectors.
Also, the railway administrative staff rarely stop people from smoking on the roofed platforms in railway stations, which should be classified as smoke-free public places.
The health of passengers taking the normal train is as important as that of their counterparts on high-speed trains. Hopefully, the court's sentence can prompt the national railway authority to stamp out smoking in all public areas, whether on trains or in stations.