Beijing is launching a campaign to stamp out widespread public spitting in an effort to clean up its image for the 2008 Olympics.

The government has concluded that spitting is the city's "most serious bad habit," Zhang Huiguang, director of Beijing's Capital Ethics Development Office, said Wednesday.

"This year we will intensify our law enforcement efforts in this field," Zhang told a news conference. "We will require law enforcement officials to step up the frequency of fines."

The fine for public spitting is 50 yuan (US$5; euro4).

Tourists visiting Beijing often are startled at how many people spit or blow their noses onto sidewalks.

The crackdown is part of efforts to raise "ethical and cultural" standards in advance of the 2008 Summer Games, a major prestige project for the communist government.

Zhang said officials will launch an advertising campaign on radio, television, the Internet and mobile phones to "teach people the right way to spit."

"For example, you have to spit into a tissue or a bag, then place it in a dustbin to complete the process," she said.

Those without a bag handy needn't worry. Zhang said her office has organized a small army of volunteers who are already hitting Beijing's streets, handing out small "spitting bags" and wearing bright orange uniforms with the Chinese character "tan" — "mucus" — printed in yellow on the back.

She said enforcement will also be ramped up against littering — the second-worst habit her office faces — and pets fouling the streets, the No. 3 scourge.