Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

December 18th, 2008:

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Dec 18, 2008

Lam Kwok-tung’s claim (Talkback, December 13) that the University of Hong Kong’s study of second-hand smoke lacks validity is classic tobacco-industry-style misinformation.

Our full report, to be published in a peer-reviewed international scientific journal, does demonstrate clear evidence for a causal relationship between workplace air quality and respiratory health (“Stick by full smoke ban, urge academics”, December 10).

Higher levels of particulates, wherever they occurred, were associated with greater reductions in lung function.

Your correspondent’s implausible explanation for this is that the most vulnerable workers, with previous respiratory problems, somehow selectively occupied jobs in the most polluted workplaces during the two years since the smoking ban legislation.

His shroud waving is baseless. For example, why does he claim that “thousands are no longer employed” given that government statistics since 2006 show the catering business has increased by 30 per cent and bars were exempted from the ban?

The only “competing interest” in this issue is the tobacco industry and a small section of the hospitality trade which says it cannot make a profit in Hong Kong without serving food and drink in filthy air.

Independent economic analyses in other jurisdictions show no negative impact of smoke-free policies, except on tobacco sales.

Despite Mr Lam’s denial, your readers can be sure that smoke-free legislation has led to dramatic improvements in the health of bar workers and the general population, measured as inflammation, respiratory symptoms, lung function or hospital admissions for heart disease. That includes the Scottish workers study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and reports from New York, Montana, Ohio, Colorado, and two from Italy.

Mr Lam accuses us of prejudice, but our only bias is the identification of serious occupational health risks. He admits that Hong Kong’s outdoor pollution is a major problem, but wants to create workplace contamination four times this level.

This cynical trade-off does not “pale into insignificance”, and the increased risks of heart attack, stroke and cancer will be unacceptable to anyone who is properly informed.

The suggestion that our catering industry is either willing or able to advise on these hazards is ludicrous.

Anthony J. Hedley, school of public health, University of Hong Kong

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Dec 18 2008 – SCMP

There has been a great deal of discussion about the issue of the smoking ban in Hong Kong. I think we have no option but to bring in the full smoking ban, not just because it is bad for your health, but because of the effect it has on the environment.

Just look at the survey which showed that the lung function of non-smoking workers in smoke-free restaurants was much more efficient than those in exempted bars (“Stick by full smoking ban, urge academics”, December 10).

It makes no sense that people continue to light up, knowing the effect on their lungs.

The full ban is opposed by nightclubs, bars and mahjong parlours which have enjoyed an exemption. They say the ban would be catastrophic, especially given the state of the economy.

However, given that their workers’ health is at risk, their objections are not reasonable.

These bar owners have a responsibility to help the environment and ensure their staff are not put at risk.

Jason Chu Hung-shing, Lai Chi Kok