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August, 2009:

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


P.A. Crush (Talkback, August 24) replying to my letter (Talkback, August 17) is wrong about the attitude of Hong Kong’s finest towards smoking. I repeatedly call the police to report violations of the smoking ban.

Officers arrive, are unfailingly polite to all parties, and then, privately, tell me how much they appreciate my complaints because tobacco smoke is so offensive and causes so much damage to society.

Shop owners in Stanley Market point me towards stall holders who are smoking illegally and encourage me to make reports, because they feel the need to “maintain good relationships” with those who pollute their air. I am happy to do so.

As to foul language on the street, I am often subjected to that – as well as having smoke deliberately blown into my face, which is a criminal offence.

Mr Crush appears to be living in the triad-controlled past when the criminals dictated how the police responded to illegal activity. I live in the present and work with the Hong Kong police to enforce the law, without first asking the criminals if they object.

Annelise Connell, Stanley

Tobacco officers drop planned protest at enforcing smoking ban

Ng Yuk-hang – SCMP

Tobacco control officers who had threatened industrial action have backed down four days before the smoking ban is extended.

Their union held a meeting with the Tobacco Control Office yesterday, which said later it expected a full team of 80 officers to report to work next Tuesday.

Last week an anonymous representative of the Temporary Union of Tobacco Control Office Employees said its members would take sick leave next Tuesday, accusing the office of wasting taxpayers’ money, the union’s website said.

The head of the Tobacco Control Office, Ronald Lam Man-kin, said they had met the officers individually or in small groups to “listen to their concerns”.

“Our impression is that no one seemed to have plans to apply for leave on that day,” Dr Lam said.

He said the government had a framework on applying for leave and anyone who deviated from this risked dismissal.

The union issued a statement saying that after collecting advice from various parties the industrial action had been postponed to “avoid affecting all Hongkongers”.

The smoking ban will be extended to 48 covered public transport interchanges from Tuesday. On the same day, offenders will receive a fixed penalty of HK$1,500 instead of a summons.

Up to July 31, more than 3,700 summonses had been issued, Dr Lam said, with offenders being fined an average HK$800.

From Tuesday, 2,200 staff of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, 700 of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and 430 from the Housing Department will be empowered to issue penalty tickets in areas under their control, such as libraries, beaches and shopping centres.

Some employees have said they would not enforce the ban, citing concerns over personal safety and workload.

Dr Lam said more than 20 talks and on-the-spot training had been offered to more than 2,000 staff from these departments, but he understood that these staff members would have normal duties to carry out.

“The office will still design operations for places such as libraries. We might have joint action,” he said. “For the Tobacco Control Office, it is business as usual.”

The smoking ban was extended to six types of entertainment venue on July 1. Dr Lam said inspections had been smooth and that there were no reports of violence in bars, nightclubs, pubs, mahjong parlours, massage shops and bath houses.

By yesterday, there had been 125 inspections of such establishments but only 53 summonses had been issued – including 36 involving mahjong houses and five in bars. No summonses had been made in massage shops and bath houses.

Dr Lam said the success of smoking controls should not solely depend on the number of inspections and summonses, but also the number of people who had quit smoking because of the ban and the increased tobacco tax.

By the end of this financial year, the office will have a full team of 99 tobacco control officers, with about 55 as contract workers.

Dr Lam said these contract posts would ultimately become civil service positions, but he did not mention a conversion timetable.

Union members had complained that a four-day induction course for new recruits was too short.

Dr Lam said extra training would be offered every year, with topics including violence prevention.

The work of new recruits would also be under close supervision, he said.

Tobacco to kill 6m next year

Reuters in Washington

Tobacco use will kill 6 million people next year from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a range of other ills, global cancer experts predict.

The new Tobacco Atlas, from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society, estimates that tobacco use costs the global economy US$500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.

“Tobacco’s total economic costs reduce national wealth in terms of gross domestic product by as much as 3.6 per cent,” the report, released on Tuesday, says. “Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone.”

If current trends hold, by 2020, the number will grow to an estimated  7 million and top 8 million by 2030.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration launched a tobacco centre to oversee cigarettes and other related products, after winning the power to do so from Congress in June. On Tuesday, it set up a committee of advisers to help guide it.

Over the past four decades, smoking rates have declined in rich countries including the United States, Britain and Japan while rising in much of the developing world, according to the non-profit research and advocacy organisations.

“One hundred million people were killed by tobacco in the 20th century,” the report says.

“Unless effective measures are implemented to prevent young people from smoking and to help current smokers quit, tobacco will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century,” it says.

China by far leads the world in cigarette production, followed by the US, Russia and Japan.

Publicly traded cigarette makers include Altria Group’s Philip Morris unit, Reynolds American’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Lorillard’s Lorillard Tobacco Co and Star Scientific.

Key findings

  • 1 billion men smoke: 35 per cent of men in rich countries and 50 per cent of men in developing countries.
  • About 250 million women smoke: 22 per cent of women in developed countries and 9 per cent of women in developing countries.
  • The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher for men who smoke than for non-smokers and 13 times higher for women smokers.
  • Tobacco kills a third to half of those who smoke.Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of Chinese men smoke and China consumes more than 37 per cent of the world’s cigarettes.
  • Tobacco use will eventually kill 250 million of today’s teenagers and children.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


It is time the government admitted that its toothless no-smoking law (“We don’t have time to issue tickets for defying smoke ban, staff say,” August 25) was always just a sham intended to dupe the public into believing some action was being taken.

A toddler could see that it is not feasible for the government to enforce this law directly.

Overseas governments have recognised this by putting the burden on bar and restaurant owners: allowing patrons to smoke is treated just like any other health code violation, and owners who do so swiftly find themselves without an operating licence.

Our government is not so foolish that it could have failed to notice this obvious problem with enforcing the law.

A frank acknowledgment of duplicity by the responsible parties is therefore long past due.

I also call on the government to name the date on which this bogus law will be replaced by a real no-smoking law.

Brad Foreman, Clear Water Bay

Oregon Sues Electronic Cigarette Maker

Charges firm is targeting kids

Weeks after reaching a settlement with three retailers to block sale of the electronic cigarette NJOY, the state of Oregon is taking another e-cigarette maker to court.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is suing Smoking Everywhere, alleging that the Florida-based e-cigarette company made false health claims about its nicotine delivery device and targeted children with sweet flavors such as bubblegum, chocolate and cookies ‘n’ cream.

Electronic cigarettes are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and some contain known carcinogens. Even so, they are advertised on radio and television, where tobacco cigarettes have been banned from the airwaves for three decades.

Thus far, Oregon remains the only state that has taken legal action against e-cigarette importers and retailers. In addition to the recent settlement with retailers, the state reached agreement with Sottera, Inc.,distributor of NJOY, prohibiting it from doing business in Oregon until local and national standards are met.

Kroger said he offered to settle with Smoking Everywhere, but the company rebuffed his offer. The result was the attorney general’s lawsuit.

As a general rule, nicotine products other than traditional tobacco products used to get a nicotine “buzz” or to quit smoking are considered by the FDA to be drugs and must be submitted for pre-approval. Prior to approval, the FDA requires manufacturers to submit reliable scientific evidence that proves the product is safe and effective for its intended use.

Kroger said Smoking Everywhere did not seek FDA pre-approval under the theory that a regulatory loophole allowed the sale of the devices as long as they were not marketed for smoking cessation. E-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA for any purpose. The FDA has rejected the defendants’ arguments and has seized e-cigarette shipments from China.

Smoking Everywhere responded by suing the FDA. Sottera, Inc., whose electronic cigarettes were also seized by the FDA, later joined the suit.

The FDA has never declared e-cigarettes safe for public consumption, but they remain easily available throughout the country – except in Oregon, where the Department of Justice in July reached agreements with retailers to temporarily stop selling them while DOJ continued its investigation.

Electronic cigarettes are designed to mimic the look and experience of smoking a conventional cigarette. Smoking Everywhere e-cigarettes contain a battery-operated heating element and a replaceable plastic cartridge that contains various chemicals, including liquid nicotine. The heating element vaporizes the liquid, which is inhaled by the user.

Oregon’s lawsuit alleges that Smoking Everywhere has marketed e-cigarettes as safe in general and safer than conventional cigarettes, yet the company possesses no scientific evidence to support such claims.

Smoking Everywhere claims that e-cigarettes contain “no harmful carcinogenic ingredients” and are “free of tar & other chemical substances” that are “produced in traditional cigarettes.” In fact, lab testing by the FDA found tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens in humans. FDA testing also found diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze that is known to be highly toxic in humans.

Some electronic cigarette cartridges have been sold as containing no nicotine, but FDA testing found detectable levels of nicotine.

Oregon’s lawsuit also alleges that Smoking Everywhere’s promotional efforts target adolescents and youths who may not already be addicted to nicotine. Although Smoking Everywhere claims e-cigarettes are “intended for use by adult smokers,” the lawsuit alleges that advertisements are designed to attract young people.

For example, advertisements use young female models who look like teenagers. The use of sweet flavored cartridges such as bubblegum and cookies ‘n’ cream also appeals to young people. Further, as part of its advertising campaign, Smoking Everywhere staged a promotional event on the Howard Stern radio show that told listeners: “For kids out there, you still look cool ’cause, like, it still looks like a cigarette…”

“We’re fighting to make sure kids are protected from unapproved gimmicks like e-cigarettes that get them hooked on nicotine,” Kroger said.

Smoking fixed penalty in crisis already

Oriental Daily

The fixed penalty for illegal smoking from September 1 might not be implemented smoothly. Inspectors from the Tobacco Control Office are planning a mass day of sick leave that day to protest about the unbearable stress and workload. Some 4,500 staffers of auxiliary agencies including the Leisure and Cultural Services, the Food and Environmental Hygiene department and the Housing Authority have also made it clear that they would not proactively enforce prosecution due to a lack of government support and personal safety issues.

We don’t have time to issue tickets for defying smoke ban, staff say

Ng Yuk-hang – SCMP

Officers responsible for issuing fixed-penalty tickets for illicit smoking from Tuesday next week have been told to give priority to their original duties, raising fears they will not have time to enforce the smoking ban.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department Staff Rights Union said a new guideline had recently been issued to frontline staff saying they should perform their original duties first. “Smoking control is not our priority,” union chairwoman Li Mei-siu said.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said smoking enforcement “will not overtake the current core duties and work priorities” of its staff. The department would continue to review whether it had enough manpower.

The two departments and the Housing Department are responsible for handing out tickets to those who smoke in premises and venues under their management, such as libraries, wet markets, beaches and housing estates.

Ms Li said her co-workers might not even have enough time to finish their duties in venue management, with only 200 staff responsible for managing 150 wet markets and cooked food centres.

“Without giving us more manpower and resources, how can we perform the extra duties?” she said.

Law enforcement would only be effective when the officers worked in teams, she said. “If there is only one staff member issuing tickets, offenders may escape or use violence. There would be no one to help,” she said.

Under the new guideline, staff would be even less motivated to catch illegal smokers. “Citizens will think we are shirking, but in fact we simply have no time,” she said.

The department should modify its guideline and, more importantly, assign a team of staff specifically for issuing penalty tickets, she said.

A department spokesman said more than 20 training sessions had already been provided for the 700 staff who would soon have the power to issue penalty tickets. He did not comment further.

Leisure Service Staff General Union chairman Gary Cheung Siu-wing said his colleagues had no time to perform the extra duty. The workload had been “very heavy” for the 1,600 staff of the leisure services branch, who, in addition to managing more than 1,000 swimming pools and beaches and more than a million trees, would also be responsible for issuing penalty tickets.

“We cannot even finish our proper work,” he said. “It is like asking firemen to catch thieves on their way to a burning building. Issuing tickets might also threaten our personal safety.” He urged his colleagues to concentrate on getting their original duties done first.

A Department of Health spokesman said it “sincerely hoped” staff of these departments would enforce the smoking ban according to the law. A total of 17 training sessions had been offered by the Tobacco Control Office since March this year to staff of the three departments.

By July 31, the Tobacco Control Office had issued 3,718 summonses this year. Some 31 per cent involved games centres, 16 per cent shopping malls and retail outlets, and 14 per cent restaurants.

Enforcers pleased with smoke ban compliance

Dan Kadison – SCMP

Most smokers are complying with the final phase of the smoking ban – and a new measure will soon provide a strong deterrent to those considering lighting up in prohibited places, a top law enforcement official says.

On September 1, the Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offences) Ordinance will go into effect, giving tobacco control inspectors, police and at least 1,000 government employees the power to issue fixed HK$1,500 tickets to those who puff away in smoke-free spots.

“A fixed-penalty ticket is quite, quite costly… We’re talking HK$1,500. It’s an expensive ticket,” said Chief Inspector Roger L.S. Mui, who has been working with the Tobacco Control Office since December. “People will think before they smoke in a non-smoking area.”

At present, 85 tobacco control inspectors issue summonses to law-breakers in smoke-free venues. Each summons carried a possible penalty of up to HK$5,000, but the actual fine imposed by the courts had averaged “around HK$500 to HK$1,000″, Chief Inspector Mui said.

Under the new ordinance, the summons scheme will be dropped and hundreds of “designated officers” from the departments of food and environmental hygiene, leisure and cultural services, and housing will be empowered to issue fixed-penalty tickets “in public venues under their management”, a Department of Health spokesman said.

Tobacco control inspectors have issued more than 14,000 summonses since January last year, when smoking became illegal in restaurants, workplaces and indoor public areas.

Bars, nightclubs, mahjong parlours, karaokes, massage venues and bathhouses lost their exemptions on July 1 – and, overall, the final phase of the ban was “working well”, Chief Inspector Mui said. People were following the law and venue operators were being “very co-operative”.

Health Department figures show 310 complaints were made about smoking in venues covered by the final phase and 45 summonses were issued by tobacco control investigators up to last Monday.

Chief Inspector Mui said publicity and education about the switch to fixed-penalty tickets, along with the wider net of enforcement, would further deter smokers. In the meantime, he said, ticket issuers had been trained and were ready to enforce the new ordinance. They had received instruction from Tobacco Control Office staff and police, who have been seconded to the office to train inspectors since 2005.

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


Your correspondents Allan Dyer and Annelise Connell should get realistic about smoking “offenders” inside buildings, lifts and bars (Talkback, August 17). Ms Connell claims that offenders are “criminal” and bar licence-holders should be penalised if they fail to enforce no-smoking rules.

She even suggests they should call the police every time an offender refuses to co-operate and, furthermore, that they should lose their liquor licences (and landlords the use of their premises) if they fail to report these “vice” cases to the police.

Let’s make it quite clear, smokers lighting up in the wrong places are not committing crimes. These offences are only misdemeanours in law and the police have much more important priorities than to welcome smoking complaints and send officers rushing to licensed premises to track down smokers.

If I were the local police commander, whose officers received repeated phone calls from a bar owner about this problem, I would issue a polite warning about wasting police time.

You have to face the reality. All you anti-tobacco lobbyists have been outwitted. You have been handed an utterly useless and almost unenforceable law.

Blasphemy and the use of foul language also continue to be offences, but we hear these on the streets all the time. Why not start a campaign about these “crimes” as well? Your correspondents have to get real.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin

TVB Pearl 1855 hrs tonight: 2009.08.23 – Discussing the Smoking Ban

播出日期 2009.08.23(日)

娛樂場所禁煙經已實施,現時只餘下街頭與家裡為合法吸煙場所。但娛樂場所禁煙的實施也困難重重,因為部分娛樂場所負責人表明不會要求客人禁煙 – 而新例亦只懲處違例吸煙者,不包括場所負責人。


The ban on smoking in places of entertainment like bars, clubs and mahjong parlours is meant to have pushed cigarette smoking on to the streets of Hong Kong. Or, into homes.

Enforcing that ban though will be a challenge. Some entertainmnet venue operators have vowed to allow their customers to smoke, in defiance of the ban. And the law permits that – only the smoker is punished.

Anyone hit with a fixed penalty fine for smoking, to be implemented in September, will have 21 days to pay it. Critics ask if that’s the case, how can Hong Kong enforce a smoking ban on visitors?


Click the following link to see the programme: