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July 10th, 2009:

THE NEW SMOKING BAN – what it means to Hong Kong and what still needs to happen


On other matters…

In his column (July 1) on the tobacco control movement, or “Tobacco Taleban” as he calls them, Tim Hamlett has missed the point entirely. Tobacco control “fanatics”, according to him, exist just to cause inconvenience and misery to smokers, curbing their rights and exhibiting an “arrogant intolerance for other people’s preferences”.

What about those of us who prefer to go out to public places and not have carcinogenic tobacco smoke blown in our faces and absorbed into our clothes, hair and lungs? When, until now, has our preference been taken into account?
I agree with him on one point. People are entitled to make their own decisions, and to engage in risky behaviour is an individual’s choice.

But a person who jumps off a tower with a cord tied to his ankles, or who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol, is not inflicting his choice on anyone else.

A smoker in a public place is.

Smoke-free areas are not intended to punish smokers. They exist to protect everyone, especially workers who do not choose to be exposed to the risk of developing deadly illnesses.

I am amazed how many people jump on the “freedom of choice” bandwagon and prioritise freedom for smokers above everyone else.

To say that anti-smoking campaigners do not know what makes people smoke and that “they do not care about people” is ludicrous.

The UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls for advertising bans and increased taxes because, in a nutshell, the illusion of glamour and cheap cigarettes is what encourages people to start.

Neither do these campaigners see smokers as “dumb”. Smokers are the victims of a corrupt tobacco industry whose despicable tactics are well documented, including giving free cigarettes to children in developing countries, deliberately increasing nicotine levels to increase addiction (where’s the choice in that?), paying for smoking scenes in movies and bribing scientists to manipulate findings.

All for a product that, if it was new on the market today, governments would not hesitate to ban. I would have thought that as an academic, Hamlett would be more familiar with the large body of evidence these “fanatics” have hugely in their favour.

Ellie Rampton, Sai Kung