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June 30th, 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