A court in central China's Henan Province Tuesday overruled an appeal filed by the family of a smoker who died of a heart attack after an argument with a man who asked him to stop smoking in a lift.
According to the Intermediate People's Court of Zhengzhou, the behavior of the defendant Yang Jun was "lawful" and was an act "safeguarding public interest."
The court overruled earlier rulings, rejected the plaintiff's compensation claim, and asked the plaintiff to pay litigation costs of more than 14,000 yuan (around 2,180 U.S. dollars).
The family of the elderly smoker claimed more than 400,000 yuan from Yang, after the smoker died of a heart attack following the argument with Yang last May.
The smoker's family subsequently sued Yang, claiming the argument had played a role in triggering the heart attack.
In last September, the People's Court of Jinshui District ruled that Yang's behavior did not lead to the death of the smoker but ordered Yang to pay a compensation of 15,000 yuan to the family.
The family appealed against the court's decision to the Intermediate People's Court of Zhengzhou City. The court heard the appeal last November but pronounced the final judgement on Tuesday.
The case has attracted nationwide attention, as many criticized the initial ruling against Yang and acclaimed the final judgement.
"Yang showed a citizen's responsibility by trying to stop a smoker in the lift. If the court asks citizens who exercise their lawful rights to pay compensation, it will dent their enthusiasm to ensure the public interest is safeguarded," said Hu Yaping, a deputy to Henan's provincial people's congress.
There are over 300 million smokers and 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke in China.
Although there is no national law on indoor smoking, a regulation in 2011 banned smoking in indoor public spaces including lifts.
The country has banned some tobacco advertisements, increased taxes and put forward regional smoking bans since it ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2000s.
As of 2016, 18 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, had smoking bans.
"Everyone, smoker or non-smoker, has the right to ask smokers to stop smoking in public venues," said Jiang Yuan, an officer with Tobacco Control Office under the Chinese Center For Disease Control And Prevention.
"The final ruling is support for national tobacco control and for those who get up the courage to say no to second-hand smoke," she said.