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Hong Kong’s Smoking Offenses Bill 2008 Gazetted 2008-02-06 19:28:42

HONG KONG, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) — The Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offenses) Bill 2008 was gazetted in Hong Kong on Wednesday, which seeks to deal more effectively with the offense of smoking or carrying a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe in a statutory no smoking area or a transport carrier.

The bill could help better utilize the resources of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the courts, a press release from the Information Services Department of HKSAR government said.

Under the bill, the fixed penalty level for smoking offenses is proposed at 1,500 HK dollars (about 193 U.S. dollars). This is on par with the fine level for public cleanliness offenses which also have public health implications. This is also the penalty level that attracted majority support in the HKSAR government’s public consultation, said the press release.

Deputy Secretary for Food and Health Ingrid Yeung said that introducing a sufficiently high standard fixed penalty level, together with the obligation to pay the penalty more promptly, would be a stronger deterrent and would convey a more consistent message on the HKSAR government’s determination to enforce the smoking ban.

Under existing arrangements for prosecution proceedings, it could take up to three months after the day of the offense before a defendant appears in court. Under the proposed fixed penalty system, a person given a fixed penalty notice for smoking offenses has to make payment in 21 days. When the payment is settled, the person is no longer liable to be prosecuted or convicted for that offense.

“With the implementation of the fixed penalty system for smoking offenses, enforcement officers could then take more enforcement action, which would increase the strength and effectiveness of our whole enforcement strategy. There may be a reduction of court’s workload if offenders are ready to pay the fines without fighting the cases,” Yeung said.

At present, tobacco control inspectors of the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) and police officers are empowered to enforce the smoking ban under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance. Under the bill, the Food and Health Bureau would further empower specified public officers of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Housing Department to issue fixed penalty notices within some of their premises to offenders.

Yeung said the empowerment of officers of these departments to issue fixed penalty notices was meant to complement the work of the TCO to further step up the enforcement strength. It would not overtake their current work priorities.

Yeung urged people to cooperate with the law enforcement officers. She pointed out that if the law enforcement officers intended to issue a fixed penalty ticket or summons to an individual, they were empowered by the bill to request the individual to provide documentary proof of identity. Refusal to doso would constitute a breach of the law under the bill, with the offender liable to a maximum fine of 10,000 HK dollars (about 1, 285 U.S. dollars).

The bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on Feb. 20, the press release said.

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