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December 5th, 2008:

What Do You Think of The Smoking Ban?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 05, 2008

It is unbelievable and embarrassing to read legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan’s claim that it is a human “need” to keep smoking, and that no law should ignore that need. (Talkback, May 14). His letter shows that he is still out of touch with reality, and is simply trying to hold on as long as possible to the support of the threatened tobacco lobby. His main constituency is the catering industry, and part of the reason for his claim that the recent smoking ban is painful to some of his members is because the government has yet again failed to live up to its moral obligations.

Smoke is a pollutant, and it also happens to be cancer-causing, not only to those who smoke but also to bystanders who inhale the exhaust from those who disregard themselves and others in their surroundings. In every city in the world that has – out of moral civic duty – installed a smoking ban, the catering industry has actually benefited.

The majority of the world is non-smoking, yet smokers end up ruining it for the rest of us, and we therefore do not patronise the venues which allow smoking. The catering industry should therefore benefit by catering to the majority. This is not rocket science.

The government’s weak stance to allow exemptions to the smoking ban has caused Mr Cheung’s constituents to lose out because there is not a level playing field.

If the government had done what was right for its citizens, and protected them from pollution and significant health risks, as the smoking ban was meant to do, then every catering establishment would have been equal. In an equal world, they can compete based on the quality of their food and service, which is what their main business is meant to be in the first place.

Customers will not stop eating just because the venues which allow them to carry out their “need” to smoke have been changed. Instead, the majority of the population, which the government seems to keep forgetting, can come out to eat because they can breathe. An economic analysis of these benefits is something Mr Cheung needs to carry out.

K. Lim, Wan Chai