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January 23rd, 2009:

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – 23rd Jan 2009

I refer to the letter by Winnie Fong (Talkback, January 17) with regard to the no-smoking laws, and take exception to smokers being defined as selfish.

As a non-smoker, I can appreciate that some smokers are less than considerate, but as the new legislation has pushed them all onto our footpaths, it is hardly surprising that we are now more aware of smokers than before.

First, whether you like smokers or not, the current legislation does not prevent people smoking. In fact, it has been reported that smoking among teenagers has increased year on year, not declined.

What the legislation does is put smokers on the street.

One can argue that smoking is an anti-social habit and impacts all those it comes into contact with, but I would argue that I would much prefer to allow (even through a licence, as one would do with alcohol for bars) certain establishments to apply for exemptions so that those who want to smoke can, and those who do not smoke do not have to go in.

Surely this is better than the current situation, where the smoke is pushed outside so we get a good lungful every time we pass a group of stressed-out office workers puffing away.

The chief executive must have considered the financial impact of the smoking ban in the current economic climate, and the possibility that its full implementation could be delayed or amended to help the catering and entertainment industry. This must especially be the case, considering that the British bar and restaurant sectors have been decimated since the country put similar laws into place.

Create legislation by all means, but in their current form the smoking regulations need to be revisited.

Hong Kong was established on the opium and tobacco trade, and although that was a long time ago, we should not go around picking on people for an addictive habit that governments were all too happy to propagate for tax-raising reasons until very recently.

Callan Anderson, Quarry Bay

Smuggling Of Cigarettes To The Mainland

Three convicted over smuggling of cigarettes to the mainland

Loretta Fong – Updated on Jan 23, 2009 – SCMP

The former chairman of Hong Kong-based Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Co and two company officials were convicted in the District Court of pocketing commissions and smuggling cigarettes to the mainland.

Lu Dayong, 60, who has fled the city, and his lover, Ko Kit, 40, a director of Hang Chun Trade Development, were found guilty of a joint charge of conspiracy to accept an advantage from a cigarette trader, Golden Leaf International Development. They received more than HK$7.5 million.

The pair, with Chan Kai-san, 41, a Hang Chun sales manager, were also convicted of a count of conspiracy to defraud Nanyang Brothers. The trio were acquitted of a bribery charge.

Nanyang Brothers, a subsidiary of publicly listed Shanghai Industrial Holdings, made the Double Happiness brand of cigarettes in Hong Kong. Double Happiness was the brand smuggled to the mainland.

The marathon trial of the cigarette smuggling racket, which was delayed for months, finally began last June.

Defence lawyers had contested the legality of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigation, arguing evidence collected by a bugging device was inadmissible because it violated the Basic Law.

Judge Joseph Yau Chi-lap rejected the argument, and a request for a judicial review of that decision was also rejected.

The prosecution said the three were caught during covert surveillance discussing the cigarette shipments or commission payments, and said anti-graft agents found Lu kept a diary on the commission payments and cigarette shipments. The offences happened between December 2002 and February 2004.

The prosecutors said Lu approved Hang Chun and Golden Leaf as overseas distributors for Nanyang Brothers cigarettes. The cigarettes were smuggled to the mainland from Hong Kong via the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the commissions were paid through various parties from the mainland in the form of deposits, cash and company or casino cheques to bank accounts controlled by unknown conspirators and Ko. She held the funds on Lu’s behalf in her bank accounts.

Judge Yau said evidence showed Lu controlled Hang Chun, despite Ko being listed as its director. He said Lu concealed the fact that Double Happiness cigarettes were actually being sold to a company Lu controlled and said this was dishonest. Judge Yau said their dishonest act caused economic loss to Nanyang Brothers and put the company at economic risk.

Sentencing for Ko and Chan was adjourned to February 20, pending background reports.