Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

May 29th, 2009:

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – May 29, 2009

P. A. Crush (Talkback, May 22) referring to my letter (Talkback, May 20) states “there is no scientific proof” of my claim “that 3,485 people will have died in Hong Kong during the past 30-month exemption of new smoking controls in bars and other licensed entertainment premises”.

The scientific data is factually based on expert reports in 1999 and 2005 citing 1,324 passive smoking annual deaths. Indeed, the data need updating.

Since Hong Kong people were granted exemptions in qualifying bars and nightclubs for 30 months from January 2007 they managed to consume 38.2 million more cigarettes per month (a total of 458.48 million cigarettes more in 2008) than in pre-ban 2006.

Accordingly, the passive smoking death rates are now certainly higher than before the 1,324 annual figure.

The referenced scientific report is “Mortality associated with passive smoking in Hong Kong” (British Medical Journal) authored by eminent professors from the University of Hong Kong’s department of community medicine and Nuffield department of clinical medicine, at Oxford University, England.

The other report is “Cost of tobacco-related diseases, including passive smoking, in Hong Kong”, again by HKU’s department of community medicine and the Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine, at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

The data revealed in 1998 that the annual value of direct Hong Kong medical costs, long-term care and productivity loss was US$532 million for active smoking and US$156 million for passive smoking; passive smoking accounted for 23 per cent of the total costs. Adding the value of attributable lives lost brought the annual cost to US$9.4 billion, and 1,324 deaths were attributable to passive smoking. Of the passive smoking-attributable deaths, 239 were from lung cancer, 303 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 309 from ischemic heart disease and 473 from stroke. This amounts to 6,920 tobacco-related deaths out of a total of 32,847 deaths in a population of 6.5 million people in 1998.

As seen from the above expert data, your correspondent misguidedly further states “private cars do far more proven harm to our environment and health than any cigarette smoker”. The main polluters of the atmosphere in Hong Kong are the coal-burning power companies, diesel emissions and emissions from ships that last year resulted in 1,155 premature deaths (Hedley Index).

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