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July 9th, 2009:

Smoking ban working well, tobacco office says

Ng Yuk-hang, SCMP

A week after the smoking ban was extended to bars and clubs, the Tobacco Control Office has issued only three summonses, though it received 59 complaints.

Thirty-six of the complaints involved mahjong parlours, while 12 involved bars, Ronald Lam Man-kin, the head of the office, said yesterday on a morning radio programme.

The ban targeting entertainment establishments, which include massage centres and bathhouses, took effect last week – 2 1/2 years after most indoor places and public areas went smoke-free, and amid strong objections by businesses.
Dr Lam said the ban was working well and that most businesses were co-operating by putting up posters and taking away ashtrays.

His office was recruiting “anti-smoking ambassadors” to the clubs and bars to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, he said.

It would also step up inspection and prosecution by recruiting 14 more inspectors by next March. Since 2007, the office has conducted more than 31,000 spot inspections and issued more than 13,000 summonses. Those who flout the ban can be fined up to HK$5,000.

The ban might not be bad for business, Dr Lam said. In New York, for example, it created 10,000 jobs and raised tax revenue, he said.

But Bars and Karaoke Rights Advocacy executive secretary Anita To Miu-yu disagreed, saying business dropped by 20 to 30 per cent over the weekend.

“Now that the border is open 24 hours a day, many people choose to have a drink in Shenzhen,” she said.
Chow Chun-yu, chief executive of the Licensed Massage Association, also said business had dropped by 30 to 50 per cent. Besides, customers were still smoking secretly, and staff found it hard to stop them. “We are scared that they may leave, or use foul words to scold us.”

Government statistics show more restaurants and licensed premises opened after the smoking ban was enacted here