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May 17th, 2012:

Bar staff have ashtrays for smokers

SCMP May 17, 2012

Bar staff have ashtrays for smokers

I could not agree more with Gibson Wong Lok-tak (“Many bars now ignore smoking ban”, May 9).

The stagnant air sickens people, particularly in upstairs bars, and nobody seems to care about this situation.

Even non-smokers going to these bars are afraid to raise the issue with the landlord or waitresses, as they see ashtrays placed almost everywhere. I even once saw a customer asking a member of staff to provide him with an ashtray; she willingly complied.

The attitude in those bars appears to be that people go there to light up even though it is against the law and that non-smokers who are unwilling to be harmed by second-hand smoke should meet somewhere else.

We all have rights. When people light up in these bars, they violate the right of non-smokers to breathe fresh air.

Customers who realise what is happening is wrong may wish to try to rectify the situation. However, they are often scared of getting a violent response or they know that their request for people to adhere to the law will be ignored.

It seems that only bars in places like shopping malls or well-known tourist spots such as LanKwai Fong will abide by the law. This is probably because of tighter security measures in these areas.

Maybe it is now time for the government or the Tobacco Control Office to step up patrols and launch a crackdown, particularly at night.

Leigh-Anne Wong, Sha Tin

Cigarette giant British American Tobacco Australia chops up the prices

TOBACCO company British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) says it has been forced to start selling cheap smokes to try to win back market share from illegal products and to compete in the expanding “cheap” cigarette market.

BATA – whose brands include Dunhill, Winfield and Benson & Hedges – last week released “Just Smokes”, which retails for about A$11.50 for a pack of 25 cigarettes.

The company said the new brand is priced just above illegal counterfeit and contraband cigarette packs – which sell for about $8 to $10 for a pack of 25.

The average price for a pack of 25 smokes is A$16.

Spokesman Scott McIntyre said since the government increased the tobacco excise by 25 per cent in 2010, the “cheap price segment” has grown 63 per cent, as smokers look for lower priced cigarettes.

“The tobacco industry is extremely competitive so if smokers continue to ask retailers for cheaper smokes, that’s where the industry will battle for market share which will potentially see prices drop further,” Mr McIntyre said.

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“(Smokers) have been down trading to cheaper products or illegal cigarettes, so we’ve been forced to compete.

“If the government keeps giving us ad hoc excise increases, all they’ll do is make the problem worse.

“They’re trying to reduce smoking rates through excise but instead, it’s making people opt for cheaper or illegal options.”

Federal AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said “price is a very strong signal” that drives either more smoking or less.

“When we tell the government to increase the taxes on tobacco, every time the price goes up, consumption goes down,” he said.

“That the opposite is occuring is very concerning for the AMA.”