Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

July 13th, 2009:

Pedestrians complain of fumes from outdoor areas where smoking allowed

Ng Yuk-hang – SCMP

A smokers’ haven in Wan Chai is proving to be a non-smoker’s nightmare, with many complaining they are assailed by second-hand smoke despite being in the open air.

Surrounded by three government buildings – Immigration Tower, Revenue Tower and Wanchai Tower – Gloucester Road Garden is a designated smoking area administered by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Cheung Mei-ping, who walks past the garden every day, says the smoke is so thick she fears it may affect her health. “Sometimes the smell is so strong that I must make a detour,” Ms Cheung, who works in the nearby Shui On Centre, said.

A Ms Lam, who also works nearby, said it was “unwise” to put a smoking area there and it would be better to let smokers indulge their habit by the sea. “At least the wind is stronger there,” she said.

But smokers described the garden as their last refuge. “Now we can’t even smoke in bars. Smokers and non-smokers should be more considerate of each other,” a Mr Chan said.

Asked if she agreed that the lingering smoke was an annoyance to non-smokers, a Ms Ma said: “Cars on the road also generate exhaust gas, they are also hazardous to health.”

Smoke Terminators’ Society chairwoman Betty Kwan Ka-mei said the area was virtually an enclosed smoking room with only an open roof. “The skyscrapers nearby block the smoke and create a chimney effect,” she said. “The smoke concentration is quite high and can be quite hazardous.”

She cited a study that found inhaling second-hand smoke in an enclosed room for an hour is equivalent to smoking a packet of cigarettes.

Gloucester Road Garden was not the only place where smoke lingered in the air, Dr Kwan said. She had seen patients smoking outside many hospitals, and office workers puffing near shopping malls.

“It is crazy,” she said. “It is unfair to non-smokers, who should have the freedom to reject second-hand smoke.” She urged the government to extend the smoking ban to areas with slow airflow.