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June 7th, 2008:

End Easy Access To Cigarettes

SCMP – 7th June 2008

I share L. M. S. Valerio’s view that it is “an uphill battle” to get existing smokers to quit their health-destructive habit and more importantly to save future generations from this scourge. (“Tough to curb young smokers”, June 3).

It is clear that the legislation to forbid sales of cigarettes to under-18 minors is not working, with the number of young smokers growing steadily in Hong Kong. The government should curb cigarette manufacturers’ easy access to the marketplace by reducing the huge number of outlets allowed to sell cigarettes.

A drastic reduction in the outlets will make access to cigarettes inconvenient and demand greater effort from smokers, adults and minors to purchase tobacco. Nicotine is a poisonous and cancer-causing substance and its availability should be restricted, not facilitated.

As it is now, cigarettes can be purchased too conveniently from supermarkets, convenience stores, newsstands, neighbourhood stores and restaurants, where cigarettes are always prominently displayed.

That cigarettes are as widely available as a bottle of water, a chocolate bar or a newspaper defies reason. The government has the moral responsibility to protect lives, including addressing the harm done by smoking. We must fight aggressive importers and manufacturers of tobacco products by restricting their access to the marketplace.

Hopefully, this will help curb or even prevent new generations of smokers from emerging.

At the same time, it may also reduce the number of existing smokers and their consumption.

Ang Ah Lay, Causeway Bay