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City Tries to Shut Club It Says Flouts Smoking Ban

bar-smokingFirst published: March 14, 2010

Source: New York Times

The Bloomberg administration is moving closer to shutting one of the largest and busiest nightclubs in the city, as part of an aggressive new strategy to revoke the operating licenses of clubs that health officials believe promote smoking.

The nightclub, the M2 UltraLounge on West 28th Street in Manhattan, went on trial last week at a special administrative court that the city uses when it seeks to take away property. If the case against the club succeeds, it would be the first time the city had closed a business solely for flouting a ban on smoking.

City officials have also moved to take several other clubs before the court, seeking to revoke their food and beverage licenses. It has been an open secret for years among the late-night set that there is a network of so-called smoke-easies throughout the city, from little neighborhood dives to glossy, exclusive boîtes, that let patrons smoke illegally.

Health department officials say that the vast majority of businesses comply with the 2002 law forbidding smoking in clubs and bars, but that inspectors have struggled to enforce it at a handful of high-end places that seem to market themselves as smoker-friendly, some even offering loose cigarettes for sale.

Generally, health officials have looked for signs of active tobacco use as part of their inspections concerning other rules, like those for food safety, and have cited clubs for violations that often result in fines of $200 to $2,000.

But they have had difficulty gaining access to the clubs when patrons are actually smoking.


Bars ignoring smoking ban taking our business, other pubs complain

smoking in bar

Patrons of bars in Tsim Sha Tsui can ignore the smoking ban as long as no one complains to the Tobacco Control Office - a loophole some bar owners say costs them business.

Updated: February 28, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Popular bars on Hong Kong Island are sick of abiding by the smoking ban while competitors in other parts of the city ignore it, and are demanding the government step in.

The owners claim that because they follow the law they are losing customers – while most others ignore the ban and are escaping with their profits intact.

Smoking legislation in Hong Kong, unlike jurisdictions elsewhere in the world, punishes smokers, not bars, for breaches. Rather than bar-owners facing losing their licences for failing to stop patrons from smoking, it is the individual smoker who faces prosecution. This means hundreds of bars are allowing smoking to continue as normal.


Big Tobacco still on the march, WHO warns

Big TobaccoFirst published: February 26, 2010

Source: Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) – Governments must do more to protect workers in bars, restaurants and the entertainment sector from harmful smoke, and curb tobacco advertising and sponsorship, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Developing countries are the new frontier for tobacco companies, which often target women and girls, and smoking rates remain high among poor people in affluent countries, it said.

Tobacco kills more than 5 million people a year from cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, including about 600,000 from second-hand smoke, according to the United Nations agency.

“Most alarming of all, tobacco use is actually increasing in many developing countries. If Big Tobacco is in retreat in some parts of the world, it is on the march in others,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, told a meeting to review implementation of a landmark tobacco treaty five years after it came into force.


Pub landlord given first smoking ban jail sentence

Nick HoganUpdated: February 26, 2010

Source: Daily Mail Online

A former pub landlord yesterday became the first person to be jailed in connection with the smoking ban.

Nick Hogan, 43, was sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to pay a fine imposed for flouting the legislation.

Two years ago Hogan, who ran two pubs in Bolton, became the first landlord convicted of breaking the law for allowing his customers to routinely light up in his bars.


`Stinky’ taunts push students to kick smokes

Beatrice Siu, The Standard

The number of secondary school students who smoke has fallen dramatically, a study spanning 14 years has revealed.

The University of Hong Kong, which carried out five surveys between 1994 and last year, said the percentage of smoking students peaked in 1999 when it stood at 12.7 percent, falling to 6.9 percent last year.

The smoking rate was based on the number of Secondary One to Five students who had smoked in the 30 days prior to being surveyed. Hong Kong’s 53 percent fall compares favorably with 45 percent in a similar survey in the United States.

Also, the total number of students who had smoked a cigarette, including first-timers and quitters, fell from 28 percent in 1999 to 15.8 percent last year.

HKU department of community medicine assistant professor Daniel Ho Sai-yin said the drop was due to strengthened tobacco control measures introduced in 2007 and the ban on tobacco advertising in 1999.

HKU says the total number of Secondary One to Five smokers is 33,287. “Although the research results indicated that there is a substantial drop in the smoking rate among Secondary One to Five students over the past 10 years, it was still high at 6.9 percent last year,” Ho said.

“This implies the tobacco control policies should be further strengthened in order to reduce the harm which smoking can do to the younger generation.”

The surveys also showed another reason why students were prepared to give up smoking – they were described as “stinky” by classmates.

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health chairwoman Lisa Lau Man-man suggested the government further increases tobacco taxes to deter youngsters.

HKU School of Public Health director Lam Tai-hing warned that active smoking kills 5,000 to 6,000 people each year and about 1,000 people die from secondhand smoke.

He also said that smoking bans are never enough.

“The government has strengthened the legislation on smoking bans but there are still loopholes,” Lam said.

For example, bar managers will not be prosecuted even if they allow customers to smoke in the premises.”

Enforcers pleased with smoke ban compliance

Dan Kadison – SCMP

Most smokers are complying with the final phase of the smoking ban – and a new measure will soon provide a strong deterrent to those considering lighting up in prohibited places, a top law enforcement official says.

On September 1, the Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offences) Ordinance will go into effect, giving tobacco control inspectors, police and at least 1,000 government employees the power to issue fixed HK$1,500 tickets to those who puff away in smoke-free spots.

“A fixed-penalty ticket is quite, quite costly… We’re talking HK$1,500. It’s an expensive ticket,” said Chief Inspector Roger L.S. Mui, who has been working with the Tobacco Control Office since December. “People will think before they smoke in a non-smoking area.”

At present, 85 tobacco control inspectors issue summonses to law-breakers in smoke-free venues. Each summons carried a possible penalty of up to HK$5,000, but the actual fine imposed by the courts had averaged “around HK$500 to HK$1,000″, Chief Inspector Mui said.

Under the new ordinance, the summons scheme will be dropped and hundreds of “designated officers” from the departments of food and environmental hygiene, leisure and cultural services, and housing will be empowered to issue fixed-penalty tickets “in public venues under their management”, a Department of Health spokesman said.

Tobacco control inspectors have issued more than 14,000 summonses since January last year, when smoking became illegal in restaurants, workplaces and indoor public areas.

Bars, nightclubs, mahjong parlours, karaokes, massage venues and bathhouses lost their exemptions on July 1 – and, overall, the final phase of the ban was “working well”, Chief Inspector Mui said. People were following the law and venue operators were being “very co-operative”.

Health Department figures show 310 complaints were made about smoking in venues covered by the final phase and 45 summonses were issued by tobacco control investigators up to last Monday.

Chief Inspector Mui said publicity and education about the switch to fixed-penalty tickets, along with the wider net of enforcement, would further deter smokers. In the meantime, he said, ticket issuers had been trained and were ready to enforce the new ordinance. They had received instruction from Tobacco Control Office staff and police, who have been seconded to the office to train inspectors since 2005.

TVB Pearl 1855 hrs tonight: 2009.08.23 – Discussing the Smoking Ban

播出日期 2009.08.23(日)

娛樂場所禁煙經已實施,現時只餘下街頭與家裡為合法吸煙場所。但娛樂場所禁煙的實施也困難重重,因為部分娛樂場所負責人表明不會要求客人禁煙 – 而新例亦只懲處違例吸煙者,不包括場所負責人。


The ban on smoking in places of entertainment like bars, clubs and mahjong parlours is meant to have pushed cigarette smoking on to the streets of Hong Kong. Or, into homes.

Enforcing that ban though will be a challenge. Some entertainmnet venue operators have vowed to allow their customers to smoke, in defiance of the ban. And the law permits that – only the smoker is punished.

Anyone hit with a fixed penalty fine for smoking, to be implemented in September, will have 21 days to pay it. Critics ask if that’s the case, how can Hong Kong enforce a smoking ban on visitors?


Click the following link to see the programme:

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


Apparently, the enforcement of the ban is too lax as we can still see smokers lighting up in indoor areas. Some smokers have moved to upstairs bars where they can enjoy their cigarettes without worrying about being caught.

Worse still, the owners of some bars actually provide ashtrays to their patrons. Although there are some owners who will try and persuade customers to put out their cigarettes, they are often ignored.

A ban that cannot be enforced is equal to having no law at all.

Those flouting the law will continue to light up and non-smokers will still be exposed to lethal second-hand smoke.

I would like to see Tobacco Control Officers increase the frequency of their patrols in areas such as SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong. I also think raids should be carried out in those upstairs pubs where smokers ignore the law.

I appreciate that pub owners face a dilemma, but they should play a more active role. For example, they should remove all ashtrays and urge customers who wish to smoke to go outside.

Non-smokers also have an important role to play. They can report venues where smokers are defying the ban to the respective government department.

I urge smokers to abide by the ban and show some consideration for non-smokers. Also, they must appreciate that they are breaking the law and if they are caught they will be fined. All they have to do to avoid that is go outside.

Mike Lam, Kwun Tong

‘I want to quit one day… but not because of the ban

Amy Nip, Austin Chiu and Dan Kadison – SCMP

Smokers are banned from having a puff inside entertainment venues, but that has not been enough to make them quit the habit.

Smoker Michael Chow said lax implementation of the ban at bars had given him “an excuse” not to stop smoking.

Lighting up a cigarette in a Central bar after midnight, Mr Chow spoke of repeated attempts to quit smoking.

He said he returned to Hong Kong from Canada a few years ago, after that country imposed a smoking ban.

When Hong Kong announced its ban, he said, he felt it was the right time to quit.

“I still want to quit one day … but I would do it for my own benefit, not because of the smoking ban in bars.”

Man Cheung, who was also smoking inside a pub, said he was under the impression that staff at the Tobacco Control Office “did not dare go check pubs located upstairs”.

“I was in a bar in Causeway Bay last month when a few tobacco control officers arrived. But they did not go into the bar to check out whether there were people smoking. They simply handed out anti-smoking leaflets to the owner,” he said.

One patron at Delaney’s Irish pub, Mike Galvin, 46, who works in Shenzhen, said he had just found out about the ban this week and was not happy about it.

“All the ban is doing is putting … people out of work,” he said. “You’re destroying the tourist industry in Hong Kong. And you’re making people obviously unhappy. So what’s the point?”

In Tsim Sha Tsui, a female smoker was standing outside the Pelican Bay Beachside Bar, an Observatory Court watering hole close to Knutsford Terrace.

The 33-year-old insurance consultant, who would only identify herself as Wong, said she found it inconvenient to walk outside a bar to have a cigarette, but still did so.

Tobacco Control Office staff had been visiting establishments since June to promote the smoke-free message, an office spokesman said. They had distributed leaflets and stickers to managers and owners so they could help promote the cause.

“All qualified establishments, whether they are situated upstairs, on street level or in the basement, are visited,” he said.

Up to 40 pubs may close, massage and mahjong parlours also suffer

Amy Nip, Austin Chiu and Dan Kadison – SCMP

More than 30 bars are on the verge of closing as a result of the ban on smoking in entertainment venues, according to the Hong Kong Bar and Club Association. Massage and mahjong parlours have also been hit hard, the industry says.

Business at bars and pubs had dropped 20 per cent to 40 per cent since the smoking ban came into force, the association said.

Business at massage parlours had halved, according to associations representing the sector. Most mahjong parlour operators interviewed said their business was down by about a third.

Some 30 or 40 bars, out of a total of 800 in the city, could close in the near future, Hong Kong Bar and Club Association vice-chairman Chin Chun-wing said. Up to 10 bar owners had sold their businesses recently.

While some smokers said they now preferred going to upstairs pubs – some of which are turning a blind eye to the ban – Mr Chin said others had simply stopped going to bars.

Charlie Chair Sai-sui, a 25-year veteran of the industry and operator of the Schooner Pub & Karaoke in Tsim Sha Tsui, said he was making a loss of about HK$30,000 a month in an industry that was experiencing a “bloodbath”.

At Delaney’s Irish pub in Tsim Sha Tsui, general manager Colin Williams said it was too early to judge the smoking ban’s effect, as “July is notoriously bad anyway”. He estimated receipts had dropped 5 per cent because daytime customers were no longer stopping by for a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

Other patrons, however, were now bringing their children to the pub and that was helping offset losses. Also, evening customers, mostly overseas visitors, were “used to these [smoking] bans already”, he said.

Chow Chun-yu, chief executive of the Hong Kong Licensed Massage Association, said customers would rather go to mainland parlours because they could smoke there.

A supervisor at the Tai Sam Yuen mahjong parlour in Sham Shui Po said the smoking ban had been more damaging to the business than the global economic crisis. It had caused business to fall by a fifth and the parlour could close at any time.

And a general manager at mahjong parlour operator KC City said business at her eight parlours was down 40 per cent compared to July last year. Four-fifths of customers were smokers, she said.

But James Middleton, chairman of Hong Kong-based Clear The Air’s anti-tobacco committee, said smoking bans had not hurt the catering industry in other countries.

Overall, till receipts in places that had enforced smoking bans had stayed the same or, in most places, risen by 5 per cent to 12 per cent, he said. Hong Kong had seen “the biggest up” in business, even with a partial ban, of any city, he said.

“Restaurant turnover [in Hong Kong] has increased 29 per cent since before the ban,” Mr Middleton said. “And restaurant turnover here includes bars … of 7,000 licensed premises, [only] 1,000 applied for an exemption [from the smoking ban] and were granted an exemption.”

One reason for the increase was that Hong Kong families were able to bring their young children to the smoke-free establishments, he said.