Restaurants will be considered entirely tobacco-free if the owners don’t separate smoking and non-smoking areas, according to a new rule to tighten smoking control in local eateries.

The rule requires restaurants larger than 150 square meters or that have over 75 seats to set up smoking and non-smoking areas. Those failing to do so will face punishment, officials said yesterday as a spot check was carried out citywide.

Fourteen restaurants and two individuals have been fined 28,100 yuan (US$4,460) so far this year for violating the city’s first anti-tobacco law, which bans smoking in 13 types of places like hospitals and kindergartens and requires establishment of smoking and non-smoking areas in middle-sized and large restaurants, said officials from the Shanghai Health Promotion Commission.

Officials said they carried out enforcement actions with different targets this year. By September, the city had fined 48 business venues and six individuals for breaking the anti-smoking law.

“The new rule is to make the law more feasible and give restaurants stronger pressure on smoking control,” said Gu Xiping from Shanghai Health Promotion Commission.

She said the commission has informed all local restaurants big enough to come under the new law. Restaurants smaller than 150 square meters or 75 seats are not covered by the local anti-smoking law.

“A unified smoking-control sign with the official complaint hotline 962727 has also been distributed recently,” Gu said.

During yesterday’s spot check, most restaurants said they were aware of the new rule and had carried out necessary measures.

Officials of Heji and Yue-you restaurants in Minhang District said both had put out signs to alert customers.

“We have three business floors,” said an official identified as He of Yueyou Restaurant. “The first and third ones are public eating areas, which ban smoking completely, while the second floor is VIP rooms where guests can smoke.”

Health officials also visited some restaurants that failed to pass the previous checks. Mengxiangcun Restaurant on Qixing Road has improved while Ayingbao on Zhongyi Road still has not, they said.

Although there was a ventilation system in Ayingbao, the smoking and non-smoking areas were connected, making non-smokers exposed to smoke and poor air quality.

Officials claimed they would impose punishment if the restaurant didn’t make any progress next time.

Local residents hailed the stricter measures.

“It can effectively protect women and children from second-hand smoke,” said Qi Yan, with her two-year-old son.