Long before the Internet was invented, China’s Communist Party was already skilled in the art of public shaming.

Dissidents have been known to disappear and then reappear after having published essays of self-criticism. On state-run television, business people, celebrities and editors have appeared so regularly from behind prison bars speaking about their misdeeds that the segments were like an early take on reality TV.

Now officials are using the tactic on another group that it feels has wronged the country: smokers.

On Monday, the capital city of Beijing launched a tough ban that prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces. As part of the campaign, it unfurled giant stop smoking banners over the iconic Bird’s Nest sports stadium, advised people to use an elaborate set of hand signals to tell those in their proximity to stop smoking and raised fines for those caught smoking.

With more than 300 million smokers – nearly the size of the U.S. population – China is the world’s largest tobacco consumer. The government estimates that more than one million people in the country die from smoking-related diseases each year. In 2008, as part of its clean-up campaign for the Olympics, the capital of Beijing for the first time required public places like restaurants, bars and hotels to provide smoke-free areas or rooms.

Back then, the consequences for businesses could be harsh, with fines of up to $725, but for individuals the consequences seemed to be almost an afterthought. That changed as of Monday, when the government announced it would increase the fine to 200 yuan and take more dramatic measures by posting the names of those breaking the law three times on a website in order to shame them.

That may not sound like a big deal, but in Asia the reaction of online citizens to inappropriate behavior can be harsh. In China, social shaming has been been called a “human flesh search engine.”

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