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June, 2009:

7 publicans convicted over outdoor smoking areas

Drinks Industry Ireland

Licensed premises were responsible for 17 of the 24 cases brought to court by EHOs under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act for non-compliance with smoking legislation while hotels were involved in a further two cases. The highest fine imposed was €2,000 on a shopkeeper in Mayo.

Of the 19 hospitality convictions, seven were in relation to permitting smoking in non-compliant outdoor smoking areas, seven were for permitting smoking in another specified place and five related to persons smoking in a specified place, according to the Office of Tobacco Control’s 2008 Annual Report.
During this period EHOs visited 5,106 licensed premises of which 4,562 (or 89 per cent) were found to be compliant in relation to observing the ‘no smoking’ legislation.

4,993 licensed premises were also inspected for compliance with appropriate signage of which 4,514 or 90 per cent were found to be compliant.

Of the 1,021 hotels inspected for compliance with ‘no smoking’ legislation, 946 or 93 per cent were found to be compliant.

1,012 hotels were also inspected for compliance with signage legislation of which 915 or 90 per cent were found to be compliant.

EHOs also conducted 690 test-purchase inspections in relation to purchases by minors legislation with 23 cases taken against retailers resulting in 19 convictions.

In the area of sales to minors EHOs carried out 28 inspections of licensed premises for the purpose of conducting test-purchases and found 18 observed the legislation in regard to sales to minors. Of the 21 hotels inspected for this, 16 were compliant.

Overall compliance with no-smoking regulation now runs at 97 per cent. This represents the highest level of annual compliance since the introduction of no-smoking in the workplace legislation in March 2004.

Through the National Tobacco Control Inspection Programme in co-operation with the HSE, 24 cases for offences under the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts were brought last year resulting in 19 convictions.

The OTC’s Chief Executive Éamonn Rossi highlighted the key role played by EHOs in maintaining the high levels of compliance and stressed the importance, where necessary, of active enforcement.

The OTC”s Chairperson Norma Cronin stated that the measures being introduced on 1st July, which also include the introduction of a national register of tobacco retailers as well as tighter controls on the location and operation of tobacco vending machines, are of critical importance.

She concluded that despite the strong legislative response to tobacco control in Ireland, complacency must be avoided. As from October, pubs, hotels and retailers can be banned from selling cigarettes for periods of up to three months for breaches of the smoking legislation.

Hong Kong workers fume over smoking ban

By David Watkins – AFP

Chris Cheung’s Hong Kong mahjong parlour is notable for two things: the incessant clatter of playing tiles and the thick fog of cigarette smoke shrouding the stony-faced gamblers.

“People come here to play and to smoke,” said Cheung. “It’s always been the tradition to do both together.”

For everyone involved here — from the staff ferrying free drinks and cigarettes to the players themselves — the marriage between the Chinese gambling game and smoking is one that shouldn’t be broken.

Nevertheless, it is about to be.

Hong Kong’s government is set to enforce a blanket smoking ban in public places from July 1, aimed at protecting workers in the city’s bars, nightclubs, bathhouses, massage establishments and mahjong parlours from second-hand smoke.

Yet many workers regard the legislation as a death-knell amid a recession that has pushed the city’s unemployment rate up to 5.3 percent. Bars have reported a drop in business as the slowdown bites.

“With the financial crisis, swine flu and now the smoking ban, it’s a perfect storm of trouble for the entertainment sector in Hong Kong,” said Lawrence Ho, who has run a bar here for 18 years.

“People are more worried about short-term job security than long-term health, because a ban is likely to make thousands unemployed.”

The Entertainment Business Rights Concern group, a lobbying organisation, says 95 percent of the nearly 100,000 owners and workers it represents fear they will lose their jobs if the ban is enforced.

The organisation points to studies conducted in Britain that say bar and pub business declined by around 15 percent in the two years after smoking bans.

Suzanne Wu, from the Secretary, Catering and Hotels Industries Employees General Union, said workers were divided.
“It is very difficult to unify the opinion as different employees have different concern. But for long-term benefit, we (the union) support the implementation of the smoking ban,” she told AFP.

For Cheung, business at his mahjong parlour is already down 30 percent from the previous year and he says a smoking ban will compound his losses.

“If you are playing mahjong with three strangers with money at stake, you can?t ask them to wait five minutes while you go out for a smoke,” he said.

Hong Kong banned smoking in public places such as schools, beaches, restaurants and karaoke bars in 2007, but the legislation was deferred for two-and-a-half years for certain establishments.

Now that the ban is about to be enforced, some are asking for more time and have even organised demonstrations.
“The current economic situation in Hong Kong is very bad and these people think they won’t survive a smoking ban on top of it,” said legislator Paul Tse, who supports a two-year deferment.

The government points to Census and Statistics Department figures that show restaurant business is up 30 percent since the ban was enforced two years ago.

“A number of establishments have attracted guests who are non-smokers or dislike second-hand smoke after the implementation of the ban,” it said in a statement.

While cities such as New York and London have adapted to smoking bans, business owners here say Hong Kong?s high-rise living makes the issue more problematic.

Anita To owns two bars on the 20th floor of a building in the city?s nightlife district of Causeway Bay and says she fears customers won?t come back after they have dropped down to street level for a cigarette.

“A large percentage of my customers are smokers and I don?t think on July 1 they will quit smoking,” she said. “Business is already down 50 percent and I think the ban will just kill me off.”

Critics say the government?s watered-down introduction two years ago has caused the problems.

“It has brought confusion and challenges to the law, great expense and effort for the health and legal authorities, and bar workers continuing to be exposed to dangerous smoke,” said Judith Mackay, a Hong Kong-based advisor for the World Lung Foundation.

And crucially it has delayed the tough new legislation until the fear of unemployment takes priority over the health of workers.
“Some of my staff have been breathing second-hand smoke for 30 years,” said Cheung. “Right now they?d rather keep their jobs.”

HK extends smoke ban to bars, clubs, etc

HONG KONG: Smokers in Hong Kong will have to stub out their cigarettes before entering recreational venues to avoid hefty fines as an extended smoking ban comes into effect July 1.

A spokesperson of the HKSAR Health Department said late Monday that smoking will not be allowed in bars, night clubs, bathhouses, massage and mahjong premises and violators of the rule could have to pay 5,000 HK dollars in financial punishment at the most.

The spokesperson called for cooperation from the management of these venues in providing a smoke-free environment for their staff and customers, noting “they are authorized to require anyone to stop smoking in no-smoking areas and can request those refusing to produce their identity and address for follow-up action, or ask them to leave.”

Hong Kong health authorities have already implemented a smoke ban covering all indoor areas of workplaces, public places, restaurants, and karaoke lounges since 2007.

The extended ban “can further protect the public from exposure to second-hand smoke,” the spokesperson said.

According to a survey released by the government in March, more than 70 percent of those polled support the extension of the smoke ban to take effect July 1.

However, an activist group for the recreational industry argued that an overwhelming proportion of the 1,018 respondents never or seldom go to recreational venues and less than 20 percent of them are smokers, so the survey may “lack credibility.”

The group made a statement in major local newspapers published Tuesday, saying it is “totally disappointed” that the government gives no regard to appeals of the industry as the financial tsunami already hits hard on the sector, which is bound to be impacted further by the ban.

Asia’s one-woman anti-tobacco campaign still going strong

Guy Newey, AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) — For most of the past 25 years, Hong Kong-based, British-born doctor Judith Mackay has been the tobacco control movement in Asia.

She has pushed for tougher laws and higher tobacco taxes, lobbied for bans on advertising, and advised and cajoled governments in Hong Kong, Laos, China, Vietnam and most other Asian countries.

She drafted Mongolia’s first post-Soviet anti-smoking law in her hotel room on the last night of her trip there, after spending most of the visit under suspicion of being an American spy.

Her success is based on her ability to convince the right person with the right power to make changes that will save lives. And she is happy to take advantage of non-democratic regimes.

“That is one of the reasons I was so active in the 1980s. Once you had democracies, you have white papers and green papers, you had public debates and forums and it went on forever,” the 65-year-old said from her Hong Kong home.

“I found I could jump over quite a few fences in one go,” added Mackay, who has been a senior policy adviser to the World Health Organization for more than 10 years.

Her vigour has inevitably drawn the attention of the tobacco industry — she was once described by a trade organisation as one of the three most dangerous people in the world.

She has been threatened with lawsuits, had secret dossiers prepared on her and even received death threats from one pro-smoking group.

“Every time my spirits are sagging all I have to do is be threatened with another lawsuit or a death threat and I am up and running again,” she said.

In recent years, Mackay’s efforts have been recognised — she was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth last year, as well as many other accolades.

Most importantly, she now spearheads the growing professionalism of the Asia’s anti-tobacco movement, boosted by a grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation.

It funds her position at the World Lung Foundation working on cutting tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries, with a focus on Asia.

“Bloomberg has brought business management into tobacco control. It is not an option to run over deadlines, like some academics and governments,” she said.

“You are now offered a career path in tobacco control. Before, there was nobody to employ you.”

Mackay was born in Yorkshire and went to medical school in Edinburgh, where she was briefly a smoker, before giving up after a few months because her roommate had asthma.

She later moved to Hong Kong and worked in a hospital, but the satisfaction of saving lives dimmed as she realised that so many were coming in with the same, smoking-related problems.

“We used to joke that in the male medical wards we never admitted a non-smoker. Everyone was coming in with cancer or heart disease or chronic bronchitis or bleeding duodenal ulcers,” she said.

Mackay, who completed Asia’s first study on domestic violence, began writing a column for the South China Morning Post newspaper on women’s health issues, and one of her early topics was smoking.

Unbeknown to her, one of the major tobacco firms prepared a dossier on her saying the anti-smoking forces in Hong Kong were “unrepresentative and unaccountable.”

When it was leaked to her, she said, “I was so outraged.

“I sometimes say that I have (that company) to thank for getting into tobacco control,” she said, adding that the surveillance highlighted how crucial Asia was to Big Tobacco’s expansion plans.

“At that stage, Big Tobacco were looking at Asia as their utopia,” she said.

“If they could persuade Asian men to change to international brand cigarettes, and persuade Asian women to smoke, everybody in North America could give up tomorrow and it wouldn’t make any difference.”

She became a full-time campaigner, representing Asia at conferences (“There was really only one person working in Asia,” she said of herself), educating government ministers and pushing for changes, even if they were merely symbolic.

She convinced Cambodia to ban tobacco advertising during children’s television programmes, even though there wasn’t any. Such decisions put down a marker which can then be extended and expanded incrementally, she said.

“China has just banned vending machines selling cigarettes. I am not sure if anyone has seen a vending machine there,” she said.

John Crofton, the British campaigner who found the first cure for tuberculosis and is Mackay’s mentor, said she has been a powerful force.

“I have immense admiration for her energy, drive, skill in managing people and her utter devotion to saving the world from its most lethal habit,” he said.

Mackay shows no sign of slowing down, despite reaching retirement age, but she remains careful not to hector governments.
“My whole modus operandi is not telling people what to do. I say ‘what do you think might be the next step forward for China?’ I put decisions and thinking on to the people in the country,” she said.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Drink-drivers face stiffer penalties under study set to go before Legco

Anita Lam, SCMP

First-time offenders for drink-driving should be banned from getting back behind the wheel for at least two years if their blood-alcohol level was three times over the legal limit when they were caught, according to a consultation paper to be discussed by the Transport Advisory Committee today.

The paper proposes that the government introduce a three-tier penalty to replace the current three-month suspension period, sources said.

First-time offenders would have their licences suspended for a minimum of six months, one year or two years depending on whether their alcohol level exceeds 50mg, 80mg or 150mg per 100ml of blood, respectively. They currently face a minimum three months’ suspension.

For second-time offenders, the minimum suspension would be two years, three years and five years. At present, they are banned from driving for at least two years.

The suggestions came out of a four-month review of drink-driving legislation and other related laws following a fatal collision between a taxi and a truck in Lok Ma Chau that claimed six lives last December. The truck driver is awaiting trial on a charge of dangerous driving causing death.

The minimum two-year disqualification for a conviction for dangerous driving causing death will not be changed. That means it would be possible for a drink-driver to be banned from getting behind the wheel for a longer period than someone who kills a person while driving.

But the government is suggesting that drink-driving be introduced as an aggravating factor for cases of dangerous driving causing death, allowing judges to add an extra 50 per cent to the sentence and the disqualification period, a well-placed source said. “It is a guideline, after all. Two years [of disqualification] is a minimum,” the source said. “The judge can exercise his discretion.”

The maximum jail term for dangerous driving causing death was increased from five years to 10 years in July. Authorities were also planning to introduce a charge called dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. It is understood the offence will carry a maximum jail term of seven years and at least two years’ licence disqualification.

“The new charge is to address drink-driving accidents in which the victims are critically injured or in coma,” another source said. The existing penalty for drink driving, a maximum of three years’ jail, “does not seem appropriate for such cases”.
Officers studied overseas legislation and World Health Organisation guidelines on alcohol consumption to reach the suggestions. The proposal will be discussed by the Legislative Council’s transport panel on July 17.

Families of victims have called for jail terms to be separated from the disqualification period, with the two penalties to be served one after the other, rather than concurrently.

But the source said that would require further study and there were few precedents on the matter in other jurisdictions.


CTA says : 1,324 people die from passive smoking per year in Hong Kong – it’s time the Government took similar action against passive smoking

Smoking Ban Broadcast in RTHK

RTHK – click link 1 or link 2 to listen

8:30- 9:15 Smoking Ban


  1. James Middleton, Chairman of the Anti-Tobacco Committee of Clear The Air
  2. Dr. Ignatius Yu is a Professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  3. Paul Tse, Legislator representing Tourism Functional Constituency
  4. Simon Wong, President of the Federation of Restaurants
mfile_514_93514_1.jpg (240×180)

Today on Backchat, we talk about the full enforcement of smoking ban in the local community

Dr. Ignatius Yu (L) and James Middleton

Click here to RTHK website to listen:

China’s Marlboro Country – the strange, underground world of counterfeit cigarettes

Te-Ping Chen, Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

YUNXIAO, China—On first approach, Yunxiao seems like any other Chinese backwater caught in an uneasy industrial transition. Faded advertisements line the downtown streets, where motorcyclists wearing bamboo-frond hats vie for paying passengers in a riot of honking. A cheerful red banner in the city center exhorts citizens to develop the local economy. The message seems ironic. After all, since the 1990s, Yunxiao has sprouted its own league of millionaires, famous throughout China.

But you won’t find their activity downtown.

Ringed by thickly forested mountains, illicit cigarette factories dot the countryside, carved deeply into caves, high into the hills, and even buried beneath the earth. By one tally, some 200 operations are hidden in Yunxiao, a southwestern Fujian county about twice the area of New York City. Over the last 10 years, production of counterfeit cigarettes has soared in China, jumping eightfold since 1997 to an unprecedented 400 billion cigarettes a year—enough to supply every U.S. smoker with 460 packs a year. Once famed for its bright yellow loquat fruit, Yunxiao is the trade’s heartland, the source of half of China’s counterfeit production.

Slate V: Hunting Chinese cigarette pirates

Today, China’s fake cigarettes—knockoff Marlboros, Newports, and Benson & Hedges—are flooding markets around the globe. They fuel a violent, multibillion-dollar black market and are even more hazardous to smokers than the real thing, yet the industry is little-known.

“Most factories are underground,” a Yunxiao cigarette broker confided in hushed tones. “They’re under buildings, unimaginably well-hidden, with secret doors from the basements.” Even the village temple—topped with an arched red roof and twisting, frescoed spires—conceals a factory below, she said.

Cigarette counterfeiting is immensely lucrative, with profits easily rivaling those of the narcotics trade. While a pack of fake Marlboros costs 20 cents to make in China, it can fetch up to 20 times that amount in the United States. And though a drug trafficker might land a life sentence if caught, a cigarette counterfeiter usually receives a comparative slap on the wrist—a handful of years in jail or possibly a fine.

“In the last few years, pretty much every market has been targeted,” said Andrew Robinson, who directs Philip Morris International’s efforts to protect its brand. In 2001, Chinese manufacturers were producing eight different varieties of counterfeit Marlboros. As of last year, though, Chinese counterfeiters were manufacturing separate versions of Marlboro tailored for some 60 countries—down to the specific details of tax stamps and regional health warnings. As many as 99 percent of counterfeit cigarettes in the United States come from China.

When it comes to top-quality fakes like these, all roads lead back to Yunxiao. “Any brand or quality, Yunxiao can help you make it,” said a former cigarette smuggler from Fujian. “You just need to name your price.”

Villagers wary of strangers act as sentries along Yunxiao’s narrow side streets and in its hotels, and outsiders are frequently tailed. Factory raids carried out by Chinese police have yielded semiautomatic rifles and met with machete-armed resistance. Every year, several state and private investigators are murdered in retaliation killings. Though Chinese authorities offer rewards of thousands of dollars for information, few residents dare to take them. “Even if you get the money,” one villager said, “you won’t have any life left to enjoy it in afterward.”

It’s hard to overstate the ubiquity of tobacco in China, home to one of the world’s most elaborate and entrenched smoking cultures. Here, the introductory exchange of cigarettes is as ritualized as a handshake, and expensive brands moonlight as everything from wedding gifts to bribes—even offerings on ancestors’ tombs.

As an official from the tobacco company Rothmans once put it, “Thinking about Chinese smoking statistics is like trying to think about the limits of space.” Every year, China’s smokers consume 2.2 trillion cigarettes. The number of counterfeits flooding the domestic market is similarly off the charts. “Each of us has come up with our own strategy to deal with it by now,” confided one Beijing smoker who refuses to buy at locations where he doesn’t know the owner. On trains, conductors roam the aisles, industriously hawking 75-cent keychain lights that purportedly reveal fake packs.

In China, all legal manufacture and distribution of cigarettes is state-owned and state-controlled. With cigarette sales accounting for nearly 8 percent of China’s budget in 2007, the state has a strong motive to keep its supply counterfeit-free. (Officials are zealous about protecting the market, too: Until this April, officials in the central Chinese province of Hubei were required to smoke a collective 230,000 packs of regional brands a year.)

Accordingly, counterfeiters deploy a number of tricks to dodge authorities. One manufacturer built a factory that masqueraded as a military compound, complete with 20 laborers—dressed in castoff army uniforms—who would conduct faux-military drills and sing the national anthem in the yard every morning. Other cigarette-making machines have been hidden on ships, inside concrete bunkers, and even under a lake.

Back in the 1990s, Chinese counterfeits often came with misspelled health warnings, blurred lettering, and other obvious giveaways. These days, their sophistication sometimes challenges forensic investigators. In the United Kingdom—where authorities report that up to one-third of all cigarettes sold in some areas are fake, mostly from China—customs officers have deployed a trained dog to sniff out counterfeits on the streets.

For the enterprising smuggler, custom-made fakes are only a few clicks away. Manufacturers openly court clients through online storefronts, touting quality guarantees and their equipment’s international caliber. One Yunxiao operation, established in 1993, assures customers of its experience exporting to Asia and Africa and says it maintains its own tobacco fields in Laos. The company—which churns out 80 million cigarettes a week—promises a six-day turnaround, door-to-door delivery for certain overseas clients, and impeccable customer service.

The tone is reassuring and gently instructive. For hesitant buyers, the owners guarantee that the U.S. market in particular is a “profit business.”

“We strive to build and maintain a total honesty management culture,” the manufacturers say, “and will appreciate the chance to do business with you.”

But for U.S. consumers, inhaling the knockoff cigarettes may do even more damage than their genuine counterparts. Lab tests show that Chinese counterfeits emit higher levels of dangerous chemicals than brand-name cigarettes: 80 percent more nicotine and 130 percent more carbon monoxide, and they contain impurities that include insect eggs and human feces.

None of that stops counterfeiters, who reap prodigious rewards from the trade. According to manufacturers in Yunxiao, state-of-the-art cigarette-making machines can set a factory back $1.5 million to $3 million. “But everyone knows that the investment can be recouped

in just a few months of manufacturing,” a Yunxiao cigarette broker told me.

Even area officials speak of the region’s counterfeiting prowess with pride. “For a long time now, a lot of Yunxiao’s cigarettes have gone to Russia,” said one police officer. “The feedback from Russian customers is that they’ve gotten used to the fake flavor, and now they don’t want the real ones anymore.”

The broker says Yunxiao might change someday, but the transition could take many years. One of the manufacturers she knows invested $2.5 million to start a legitimate business elsewhere, but recently quit and returned—disappointed because “the profits could never match counterfeit.”

Still, she hopes the industry will make a shift: “We locals would like to see Yunxiao start its own legal cigarette factory someday.”

Te-Ping Chen is a staff reporter with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity.

Article URL:

Latest research: Stakes get higher in tobacco smuggling

28th June 2009

The illicit trade in cigarettes costs governments $40.5 billion in lost revenue every year, with losses falling disproportionately on low and middle income countries, and the benefits of international action are likely to far outweigh the costs, latest research has shown.

Released for the opening of the third intergovernmental negotiating body on the Protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (INB-3) in Geneva today,  the reports “How eliminating the global illicit cigarette trade would increase tax revenue and save lives” by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and “Cost Benefit Analysis of the FCTC Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products” by Paul Johnson and others, for ASH UK, add to mounting evidence that the costs of smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco are counted not only in the millions of lives lost but also in billions of government revenue lost through inaction.

“The case for coordinated worldwide action against tobacco smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco has never been stronger,” said Laurent Huber, director of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) a global alliance of more than 350 non-government organisations working on the global tobacco treaty. “There is no denying that government delegates arriving in Geneva today are faced with a week of difficult negotiations in the face of the global illicit tobacco trade. But they cannot leave this meeting justifying in action by saying it was too difficult – the costs are simply too great.”

The ASH UK report shows the potential financial and health benefits to the UK of a strong illicit trade protocol. It also provides a methodology that other researchers can use to measure the possible impact of the protocol in their own country. It provides powerful evidence in favour of a strong protocol, suggesting once again that it could lead to major advances in public health and to significant increases in tax revenues to governments across the world.

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease report, the most authoritative report yet produced on the extent of the global illicit trade in cigarettes, includes:

  • Updated country level estimates of the illicit cigarette market around the world, using 2007 data or as close to 2007 as available;
  • Evidence that higher income countries,where cigarettes are more expensive, have lower levels of cigarette smuggling than lower income countries, contrary to the tobacco industry claim that the overall level of smuggling is dependent on cigarette price;
  • Evidence that the burden of cigarette smuggling falls disproportionately on low and middle income countries,where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live; and
  • Estimates of the number of lives saved and revenue gained globally in the future if smuggling was eliminated. The report shows that 11.6 per cent of the global cigarette market is illicit, equivalent to 657 billion cigarettes a year and $40.5billion in lost revenue.

According to the report, if this illicit trade was eliminated, governments would gain, in principle immediately, at least $31 billion, and from 2030 onwards save over160,000 lives a year, resulting from an overall increase in cigarette price of 3.9 per cent and a consequent fall in consumption of 2.0 per cent. In just six years over a million lives would be saved, the vast majority of them in middle and low income countries.

The Illicit Trade Protocol is the first agreement to be negotiated under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global health treaty. Since the opening of the first working group for the FCTC on 25 October,1999, according to WHO estimates, 43,504,658 people will have died from tobacco-related diseases as of 9am, Monday June29, Geneva time.

The FCA believes that the protocol is essential to international progress on tobacco control.Smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco undermine national attempts to control tobacco use, particularly through taxation on tobacco products.Fighting smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco saves lives, helps fight organised crime and raises money.

More Information:

Link to “How eliminating the global illicit cigarette trade would increase tax revenue andsave lives”:

Link to “CostBenefit Analysis of the FCTC Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products”:

The FrameworkConvention Alliance-

World smoking statistics

Struggling venues may turn a blind eye to smoking ban

Danny Mok and Dan Kadison – SCMP

Come Wednesday, smoking will be banned in all indoor areas at workplaces and in public spaces – and bars, nightclubs, clubs, saunas, massage parlours and mahjong parlours will no longer be exempt.

Many such venues are ready to comply, but several establishments could be a bit hazy when it comes to the spirit of the law, the Sunday Morning Post has learned.

Several venue owners and members of an association said they feared business would plummet as a result of the ban, and they would take a fairly lenient enforcement stance.

Chin Chun-wing, vice-chairman of the Bar and Club Association, a group which represents about 200 bars in the city, said he believed members would lose 50 per cent of their business as a result of the ban, the financial downturn and swine flu.

“We have to remove ashtrays, but honestly, if we find customers smoking, we can’t do much as business has already been very bad. We can’t stop them smoking and drive them out of there. We won’t do anything. We don’t want to annoy smoking customers, especially those drunken ones, who might react very unexpectedly,” Mr Chin said.

Mr Chin did say, however, that his group members would let offenders know about the smoking ban. “Being licence-holders, we have to display smoke-ban posters and stickers as required by the government, or we will have to worry about applications for licence renewals in the future.”

Christopher Cheung Ka-ning, managing director of the Hong Kong Mahjong Company, a parlour in Wan Chai and an industry delegate, pointed out that mahjong rooms provided customers with free cigarettes.

“We will remove ashtrays but still give out free cigarettes,” he said. “We can only try to discourage them [patrons] from smoking here.

“I will definitely try to persuade them [not to smoke] and I will ask staff to do so if they find customers smoking. But if they ignore us, we can’t do anything else.”

Mak Cheong, a nightclub owner and spokesman for the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Ballroom and Nightclub Merchants, said his club would not even give “verbal notices to smoking customers”.

“If we find smoking customers, we won’t execute the ban,” he said. “We will just let the TCO [Tobacco Control Office] do it. We are not game to do the job. It means driving customers away.”

Under the law only offenders, not venue managers or landlords, may be summonsed by tobacco control inspectors. However, there are owners and managers who say they will play by the rules.

Ray Ng, co-owner of Halo and Volar, said he expected to see some losses from the ban, but his nightclubs were on board.
“Unfortunately, both our venues … are underground. Instead of going out to a balcony, I’m afraid our customers will have to walk up a staircase and come back in,” he said. “That’s unfortunate. Hopefully, in the long run, it will be better. Maybe fewer people will smoke.”

A spokesman for Wan Chai bar Mes Amis said there would be full compliance there, too. “We shall be toeing the line – no smoking, guaranteed,” the spokesman said. Ashtrays would be taken off the bar, and no-smoking signs would be hung up.
Gilbert Yeung Kei-lung, co-owner of Dragon-I, said his nightclub also backed the ban. “This is a world trend and I think the reason why the Hong Kong government and a lot of countries are doing this is for the good of people,” he said.

Lee Thomas, operations director for Beijing Club, Billion Club and Club No9, said his establishments would take no nonsense when it came to smoking on the premises.

The smoking ban “hasn’t affected the UK, it hasn’t affected America, it hasn’t affected Australia, it hasn’t affected Ireland”, he said. He said his clubs would all have legal balcony spaces for smoking.

Winners and losers
Anti-smoking advocates They’ve come a long way, but still have miles to go. Still, a victory’s a victory. Light ’em if you got ’em. (We’re just kidding, of course.)

Establishments with outdoor seating or balconies Smokers can puff away in peace, as long as venue operators don’t have an overhang blocking over 50 per cent of their outdoor space.

Tourists Even if handed a summons, there’s no mechanism to force visitors to show up to court, critics say.
Snitches An offender who smokes in a bar and leaves can still be slapped with a summons if a witness chooses to rat them out in court.
Your health Need we say more?

Smokers If caught by the city’s tobacco control inspectors, offenders can face a penalty of up to HK$5,000. That will change in September when the government switches to a fixed ticketing system of HK$1,500 per fine.

Tobacco companies Less puffing means less sales.

Bars and clubs in basement spaces or on the upper floors of commercial buildings Smokers may bolt for clubs with outdoor areas or balconies.

Smokers who drive with children in the car Plenty of people want to see this banned
Dan Kadison