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January 7th, 2009:

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 07, 2009 – SCMP

I think that the full smoking ban should not be delayed.

However, having a few smoking rooms should be allowed. Smoking is harmful to smokers and passive smokers. And people have been given a grace period to get used to the ban.

However, I accept that given the financial crisis, the government should adopt certain measures to try to help bars and restaurants, some of which are struggling to survive.

I think setting up smoking rooms would be a good idea as it could prevent customers being exposed to passive smoking and it would mean bars and restaurants would not lose customers who want to smoke.

However, if such rooms are allowed, there must be strict monitoring of these facilities to ensure that no harmful substances affect customers outside the smoking rooms.

In the long term, I think the government should provide more programmes to help smokers quit, and it should advertise these programmes.

Jacky Chau Tsz-ki, Tsing Yi

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 07, 2009 – SCMP

I take issue with the twin assertions by Markus Shaw (Talkback, January 3) that “smoking is not an environmental issue” or that it does “not belong in the same debate as air pollution”.

Globally, smoking kills about 5 million people every year and no one has the right to dismiss this as inconsequential; to do so would be inhumane.

Tobacco’s environmental costs include fire damage due to careless smokers; increased cleaning costs; and widespread environmental harm from large-scale deforestation (trees are cut down to cure tobacco), pesticide and fertiliser contamination, and discarded litter. Tobacco’s total economic cost reduces national wealth, gross domestic product, by as much as 3.6 per cent. Smoking causes over a million fires each year, burning down forests and urban property, leading to more than 17,000 deaths, many more injuries, at an estimated global cost of US$27 billion.

In concrete terms, there are 1.4 billion smokers in the world, each discarding cartons, matches, ash and about 20 cigarette ends daily – amounting to more than 20 billion cigarette ends containing carcinogens every single day. About one third of all litter, where litter content has been evaluated, is cigarette litter.

Both indoor and outdoor pollution are serious health, environmental and economic problems that require addressing urgently in Hong Kong.

Dr Judith Mackay, director, Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 07, 2009 – SCMP

Andy Boulton (Talkback, January 1) exercises his personal choice to smoke and to make comments on anti-smoking campaigners.

He misguidedly compares smoking to alcohol use, where moderate consumption of red wine is proven to prevent heart disease. Alcoholics harm themselves but do not force their drink down the noses and throats of others, as is the case with sidestream smoke, which kills people.

He says: “The tax from tobacco is still a major revenue earner for the Hong Kong government and I believe more than covers the cost to the government of smoking-related illnesses.”

In 2007 the Hong Kong government received HK$2.8 billion in tobacco taxes. The government states that the annual cost of tobacco to Hong Kong’s economy is HK$5.3 billion in health care and loss of productivity. The cost when value of life is included is HK$73.3 billion annually, of which 19 per cent, HK$13.93 billion, is attributable to passive smoking.

Work it out. The government is massively subventing the costs of tobacco on Hong Kong society, and the money could be better used suing Big Tobacco to recover the treatment costs, which has happened elsewhere.

The government mandates the use of seat belts in vehicles, crash helmets on motorcyclists and helmets and safety harnesses on construction sites. It has occupational safety laws for the workplace. Likewise anti-smoking laws are introduced to protect people in the workplace. Mr Boulton ridicules peer-reviewed studies from world experts on the dangers of passive smoking, which even the tobacco companies admit to on their websites.

Smoking kills six times more people in Britain than road traffic accidents, other accidents, poisonings and overdoses, murder and manslaughter, alcoholism, suicide and HIV/Aids. In Hong Kong 7,000 people a year die from smoking-related illness and, of those, more than 1,300 deaths are from passive smoking.

This “personal choice” nicotine addiction takes 14 years off a normal lifetime and kills others besides its addicts. The smoking exemption will end on June 30. People opposed to its cessation must live with it.

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