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Legislative Council

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – May 30, 2009

During the recent debate, in these columns, over the delayed additional restrictions on people smoking in public areas, the key point seems to have been overlooked – that is, it is a proven scientific fact that smoking makes people ill, in many cases very ill indeed. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year as a direct consequence of smoking, or of being obliged to inhale the poisonous fumes emitted by others.

We would all be aghast at the thought of allowing people to inject themselves with heroin, or to snort coke in public places. So why should tobacco control be claimed as being in a different category?

And quite apart from the health dangers to all concerned, non-smokers generally find it unpleasant to take a drink, or a meal, when surrounded by such fumes. The sooner that wider ranging tobacco-control measures are introduced (including the abandonment of duty free allowances for tobacco products), the sooner that the health of smokers and non-smokers alike will be endangered less.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

Should the Smoking Ban be Delayed Again?

SCMP – May 20, 2009

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, supposedly representing the rights and welfare of blue-collar workers, has been unable to delay the smoking ban legislation (“Attempt to delay smoking ban fails”, May 12). Mr Chan wanted the imposition of the ban in nightclubs, bars and mahjong schools to be put off for a further two years. He sought to continue polices which had been followed by the Liberal Party and that had delayed the implementation of anti-smoking laws for six years. Mr Chan painted a picture of doom and gloom for the catering industry. The Liberal Party served the interests of tobacco companies and callously ignored the lethal consequences of passive smoking in the workplace.

George Tsai, chairman of the Bar and Club Association, and Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, have also promoted a doom-and-gloom scenario (“Rally to seek two-year delay in bar smoke ban”, May 18). They are trying to hoodwink bar staff into believing they will be out of a job in a clean-air workplace. However, the fact is staff will be healthier and more productive and more non-smokers will visit bars when the air in these establishments is free of smoke.

The government, under pressure from the Liberal Party, foolishly allowed a 30-month exemption period for bars and nightclubs. It therefore abandoned the right to a safe workplace for bar workers. Contrary to the doom-and-gloom approach, Hong Kong restaurant receipts are higher than they were before the smoking ban was introduced, despite the global downturn.

Meanwhile on July 1 when the total ban comes into force, 3,485 people will have died here due to passive smoking during the 30-month exemption period.

Catering staff should realise that these people supposedly representing their interests have a different, hypocritical and misinformed agenda.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air

Rally to Seek Two-year Delay in Bar Smoke Ban

Ng Kang-chung, SCMP – May 18, 2009

Bar owners are calling on staff and patrons to join them next Sunday to protest against a ban on smoking in nightclubs, bars and mahjong schools set to come into force in July.

They claim the ban could force more than half the city’s 1,000 or so bars and clubs to close, because smokers are their major clients.

The owners want the government to postpone the ban for two years, saying their businesses have already been hit hard by the economic downturn. Next Sunday’s protest, with the theme “no smoking, no job”, is a fresh bid by the sector after a failed attempt last week by legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip to move a private member’s bill seeking to push back the implementation of the ban.

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing ruled that Mr Chan’s attempt breached a ban on lawmakers introducing bills related to “government policy”.

The Hong Kong Bar and Club Association, which is organising the protest, expects a turnout of at least 2,000 people. Chairman George Tsai said: “We have been hit by the financial crisis and the swine flu. The July 1 smoking ban is set to be the last straw.

“Many bar owners have reported that business turnover has dropped by up to a third in recent months. We understand that more than half of the bars and pubs could be forced to close if the smoking ban is imposed.”

He also blamed the drink-driving measure introduced in February, under which police can carry out random checks on drivers to see if they have drunk alcohol.

A bar usually hired about 10 people, he said, meaning that if 500 closed, as many as 5,000 people could be thrown out of work.

Bartender Candy Wong, who works at a pub in Causeway Bay, said she was worried she could lose her job if the ban is introduced.

“Business is already bad. The boss just recently cut our pay by 20 per cent. I don’t want to lose my job,” Ms Wong said. “A friend of mine who got sacked idled away three months at home before she could get another job at another bar. And she is paid much less than before.”

Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, said: “We are not against anti-smoking measures. We also care about people’s health. We only want the government to give us more time to adapt.”

Attempt to Delay Smoking Ban Fails – Legco President Rules Out Lawmaker’s Bill

Ng Kang-chung, SCMP – May 12, 2009

A last-ditch attempt by a legislator to delay by two years the imposition of a smoking ban in nightclubs, bars and mahjong schools has been defeated.

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing ruled that the attempt breached a ban on lawmakers introducing bills related to “government policy”.

League of Social Democrats lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, who initiated the move, criticised Mr Tsang’s ruling as making a mockery of the legislature’s power but said he was not too surprised by the result, given the non-democratic political system.

Mr Chan’s bill sought to defer the implementation date of the smoking ban in venues like bars, clubs and mahjong schools by two years to July 1, 2011.

He said the deferment would help tide those establishments over the current economic downturn.

In his ruling, Mr Tsang said: “The amendments to be effected by Mr Chan’s bill would defer the implementation of the smoking ban … by a period of two years. As such, Mr Chan’s bill clearly impacts upon government policy and the effect cannot be said to be negligible or minimal.”

Accordingly, he ruled that Mr Chan’s bill might not be introduced without the written consent of the chief executive.

Mr Chan said yesterday he did not intend to pursue the matter further.

“If the government is so eager to protect people’s health, why does it not ban wine as well?” he asked.

He also said Mr Tsang’s ruling had deprived the Legislative Council of a chance to review a bill it endorsed three years ago.

The amended ordinance extends no-smoking areas to indoor areas of all restaurants, workplaces and some public outdoor places. Some premises, like bars, nightclubs, mahjong schools and massage parlours, were allowed to delay the changes until July 1 this year.

“The economic situation now is totally different from that three years ago,” Mr Chan said. “What legislators thought was suitable then might not be timely now.”

Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, expressed “extreme disappointment” with Mr Tsang’s ruling and accused it of “effectively killing their business”.

“The smoking ban will drive away more of our smoker customers. We are not against anti-smoking [initiatives], but just want more time,” said Ms Chan, whose group is a coalition of entertainment premises.

“If the government wants people to quit smoking, it should enhance education and not do so at the expense of our business.”

HK Gazettes Legislative Amendments for Tobacco Duty Rates

Xinhua, Web Editor: Hu Weiwei, – 2009-04-30

The Hong Kong government Thursday announced the gazetting of the legislative amendments required for giving effect to the Budget proposal of increasing the duty rates on tobacco by 50 percent.

The Hong Kong government Thursday announced the gazetting of the legislative amendments required for giving effect to the Budget proposal of increasing the duty rates on tobacco by 50 percent.

In his 2009-10 Budget, the financial secretary proposed to increase the duty rates on various types of tobacco by 50 percent for public health reasons.

The proposal came into immediate effect from on Feb. 25 this year under the Public Revenue Protection Order 2009.

As the order gives provisional legal effect to the proposal for only four months, it is necessary for the government to introduce a Bill containing the proposal into the Legislative Council for enactment.

“The proposed increase in tobacco duty will strengthen our tobacco control efforts to protect public health and will further discourage smoking. It can also reduce the long-term disease burden for Hong Kong,” a government spokesman said.

The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on May 13.

Implementation Of Smoking Offence Fixed Penalty System And Designation Of Statutory No Smoking Area At Public Transport Interchanges

Legislative Council – 14 April 2009

This paper gives an account of the past discussions by Members on the implementation of smoking offence fixed penalty system (FPS) and designation of statutory no smoking area at public transport interchanges (PTIs).

For more information, please visit:

‘No Sign’ Illicit Sales Up Since Smoke Duty Rise

Eva Wu, SCMP – Apr 03, 2009

There had been no sign of an increase in the sale of smuggled cigarettes since the tobacco duty was raised in this year’s budget, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung told the Legislative Council yesterday.

Professor Chan defended the government against criticism from lawmakers that it had failed to fight the sale of smuggled cigarettes effectively after increasing the tax on tobacco products by 50 per cent.

“The Customs and Excise Department has closely monitored the selling of smuggled cigarettes after the introduction of the tobacco-duty increase in the budget,” Professor Chan said.

“There is temporarily no sign of deteriorating sales of smuggled cigarettes in the market,” he said. “If necessary, the department will increase its manpower to fight against illegal activities.”

But lawmakers disagreed with the government and urged it to step up enforcement against the illegal cigarette trade, which they said had got worse since the duty increase.

Legislator Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre, said he had received complaints that residents of public-housing estates had recently received leaflets promoting the sale of smuggled cigarettes.

League of Social Democrats lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said the illegal trade was “totally out of control”.

A motion to repeal the cigarette-tax increase, moved by Mr Chan, was voted down by the legislature yesterday.

In his second budget, unveiled in late February, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah increased the tobacco duty by 50 per cent with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, League chairman Wong Yuk-man yesterday blasted Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the finance secretary and the government as “bu gai” – “you are wrong” in Putonghua.

The pronunciation of the words is similar to puk kai in Cantonese – meaning “drop dead in the street” – but puk kai was ruled by the Legco president on Wednesday to be unparliamentary language that could no longer be used in the chamber.

Mr Wong delivered his speech in Putonghua and argued that he did not use foul language, despite the similar pronunciation of the two expressions.

50% Tobacco Tax Increase

Media Release

Clear the Air (CTA), together with the Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Dr Judith Mackay of the World Lung Foundation (WLF) have actively lobbied the Department of Health, the Panel on Health Services, the Food and Health Bureau, Legco members, the Financial Secretary and the local media to show that Hong Kong Government’s anti smoking measures were seriously lacking and in breach of the requirements of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty. There has been no tobacco tax increase in Hong Kong for 8 long years since early 2001.

Recently the South China Morning Post published information on their front page provided by us demonstrating that the number of legal tobacco products consumed in 2008 was 13.8% more than consumed here in pre – smoking ban 2006. In the past week ATV World’s ‘Inside Story’ program aired a well timed documentary in which Clear the Air , HKU and WLF figured prominently; all the above strategies, combined with nonstop up to date worldwide anti-tobacco information provided to the Secretary of Health , the Food and Health Bureau and Legco members has now resulted in a significant step forward by the local SAR Administration which hopefully sets an example to Mainland China. In addition, the Secretary of Health Dr. York Chow and the Food and Health Bureau have demonstrated to the Administration the importance of increased taxation as an important healthcare measure and they have refused to compromise on this important matter.

50% Tobacco Tax Increase – 烟草税增加50%

The Financial Secretary today announced that the excise duty on tobacco products will be immediately increased by 50% to HK$ 24 per pack above the current levels of just over HK$ 16 per pack.

Whilst we have sought a 100% tax increase, Clear the Air estimates that the new increased tax will hopefully:

– Reduce current adult smoking significantly

– Reduce current youth smoking by a significant amount and prevent our non smoking youth starting their addiction due to peer pressure

The Hong Kong Administration must now capitalize on this tax increase and move towards making Hong Kong the world’s leading non smoking territory.



– 令成年烟民的數目明顯減少

– 令青少年烟民的數目明顯減少,從而防止青少年因受朋輩壓力去開始吸烟


Further Government action is needed

The tobacco taxation level must continue to increase year by year in line with FCTC requirements.

Smoking bans must be extended at all restaurant and bar premises to include the Outside Seating Accommodation and patio areas.

Smoking must be banned near airport and ferry entrance and exit doors, within 20 meters of restaurants, bars , building and office entrances , in vehicles carrying children and in all transport interchanges whether open air or enclosed.

The Tobacco Control Office staff needs to be doubled in order to enforce the new fixed penalty smoking offence scheme efficiently.

The Government must also legislate the excise taxation to be a percentage not less than 80% of final retail cost to prevent tobacco companies reducing prices to offset the increased taxation.

This new excise taxation level is reasonably expected to earn approximately HK$ 4.6 billion duties in the coming financial year but this will still trail Government’s healthcare current spending on tobacco related illnesses and lack of productivity by HK$ 0.8 billion ; this is unacceptable since the health damage due to smoking is totally preventable by fiscal means, especially to prevent youth from starting smoking and health damage by passive smoking.

The Government must now consider legal action against the tobacco companies as has happened successfully overseas, to recoup the immense costs incurred on the local healthcare system by these consumer products.

Tobacco products are the only ‘legal’ consumer products which kill their users when operated as directed by the product manufacturers.

Text of the Budget speech on Tobacco Tax:

Medical and Health

108. Separately, for public health reasons, I propose to increase tobacco duty by 50 per cent with immediate effect. The duty on cigarettes will increase from around $0.8 to about $1.2 per stick. We will also continue to step up our efforts on smoking cessation, as well as on publicity and enforcement in tobacco control.

Non competing Interests :

None of the above bodies nor individuals (CTA, HKU, WLF) has any links whatsoever to the Tobacco Industry unlike statements which recently appeared in the press from the Committee on Youth Smoking Prevention. For those people who are not aware of the history or tobacco company funding of this organization please refer to the Council on Smoking and Health website:


Clear the Air is a registered charity based in Hong Kong with the aims of improving the overall air quality in the Territory. For further information on this press release please contact :

Mr Michael Pieper, Communications Director Clear the Air Hong Kong

Professor Anthony Hedley , Department of Community Medicine University of Hong Kong

Professor Judith Mackay , World Lung Foundation

Time To Raise Tobacco Taxes – And Save Lives

SCMP – Feb 18, 2009

Stocks in companies offering products such as tobacco and alcohol are much loved by investors because they are believed to be recession-proof. Taxmen feel the same way. Tobacco tax is for all seasons; it is one of the few categories of public revenue that can reasonably be raised regardless of the economic cycle. In this downturn, the government is under pressure to bring relief to businesses in its budget next week as industries of all types clamour for tax breaks. The tobacco industry, still with deep pockets, might be the exception.

To deter people from smoking, the government should increase tobacco duty. The Committee on Youth Smoking Prevention yesterday recommended doubling the tax. This is certainly feasible. There is a strong case for a significant increase. Duty on cigarettes has not been raised since 2002. As a result, our city has some of the cheapest cigarettes in the developed world.

Because of the potentially deadly nature of the products it sells, the tobacco industry can expect little opposition from the public to a rise in the tax. Unlike many consumer industries, it finds it much easier to pass on costs to smokers because of their addiction. But high prices would discourage young people from taking up the habit. Smoking can cause addiction and all kinds of chronic diseases. It is imperative youngsters be deterred from taking up the habit.

The ban on smoking in public, introduced at the start of 2007, has proved a success. Businesses, such as restaurants, which initially opposed it have come around. Many find that, though they have lost customers who smoke, non-smokers who previously avoided the establishments have taken their place. Many bars were exempted from complying with the ban until this summer. They are now lobbying for the exemption to continue because of the economic downturn. But they were against the ban even when times were good. The government must make the ban universal, as planned. We cannot completely stop smoking, but raising taxes and extending the smoking ban to all enclosed public spaces will deter enough people from
smoking to save many more lives.

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Feb 02, 2009

A survey has shown that the lung functioning of non-smoking workers in smoke-free restaurants was much better than that of non-smoking workers in exempted bars (“Stick by full smoke ban, urge academics“, December 10). Smokers continue to light up even though they know the dangers of smoking.

Owners of nightclubs, bars and mahjong parlours argue that a full ban will be catastrophic for their businesses, especially given the economic crisis.

However, it is unreasonable that they should be able to make a profit at the expense of the health of their members of staff. I believe there should be a prompt implementation of a full smoking ban in order to improve people’s health.

Also, once the ban has been agreed by the government, it must be enforced.