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January 10th, 2009:

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 10, 2009 – SCMP

A. J. Hedley, Clear the Air and Dr Judith Mackay continue to mislead Hong Kong residents about the comparative dangers of second-hand smoke.

Anti-tobacco crusaders, some of whom depend on promoting these views for their living, love dusting off long-forgotten files to extract meaningless statistics. Did you know for instance that someone once concluded that 67 per cent of all statistics are wrong?

But coming back to Professor Hedley’s “40 tonnes of highly poisonous chemicals” spewed out by Hong Kong’s smokers (Talkback January 8), most of this smoke with its poison never reaches the outside air you and I have to breathe.

It gets deposited in the lungs of smokers or clings to the walls as a yellow filth inside smoking premises. This is the legitimate choice of those who smoke, enter or permit smoking premises.

Smokers are not “compelled” by their addiction to continue smoking as Clear the Air suggests. If this were the case, how is it that thousands of smokers successfully quit each year? Clear the Air has to accept people choose not to give up smoking and this is their right.

I challenge every person who has condemned smokers in these columns to verify that they never travel in a private car in Hong Kong. Since your correspondents are so beholden to statistics, here are some for them.

The University of Tennessee’s Centre for Energy, Transportation and Environment, after years of research, concludes the “personal automobile is the single greatest polluter” and “driving a private car is a typical citizen’s most polluting activity”.

The Calor Gas Company of Britain goes even further and states that by just walking about in the streets of Oxford, for instance, one of Britain’s most traffic-congested and vehicle-emission-polluted cities, you will inhale in one day the equivalent of smoking 60 cigarettes.

So let’s get things into perspective. It is outside air quality that Clear the Air and company should be concerned with, not a few guys who wish to enjoy a cigarette at their own risk in a smoky bar.

Clear the Air has in the past consistently rejected requests to add private cars to the list of polluters. Its committee prefers to attack smokers and “polluting” buses, which provide seating accommodation for 150 passengers.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin