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May 20th, 2009:

Should the Smoking Ban be Delayed Again?

SCMP – May 20, 2009

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, supposedly representing the rights and welfare of blue-collar workers, has been unable to delay the smoking ban legislation (“Attempt to delay smoking ban fails”, May 12). Mr Chan wanted the imposition of the ban in nightclubs, bars and mahjong schools to be put off for a further two years. He sought to continue polices which had been followed by the Liberal Party and that had delayed the implementation of anti-smoking laws for six years. Mr Chan painted a picture of doom and gloom for the catering industry. The Liberal Party served the interests of tobacco companies and callously ignored the lethal consequences of passive smoking in the workplace.

George Tsai, chairman of the Bar and Club Association, and Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, have also promoted a doom-and-gloom scenario (“Rally to seek two-year delay in bar smoke ban”, May 18). They are trying to hoodwink bar staff into believing they will be out of a job in a clean-air workplace. However, the fact is staff will be healthier and more productive and more non-smokers will visit bars when the air in these establishments is free of smoke.

The government, under pressure from the Liberal Party, foolishly allowed a 30-month exemption period for bars and nightclubs. It therefore abandoned the right to a safe workplace for bar workers. Contrary to the doom-and-gloom approach, Hong Kong restaurant receipts are higher than they were before the smoking ban was introduced, despite the global downturn.

Meanwhile on July 1 when the total ban comes into force, 3,485 people will have died here due to passive smoking during the 30-month exemption period.

Catering staff should realise that these people supposedly representing their interests have a different, hypocritical and misinformed agenda.

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