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Should The Full Ban On Smoking Be Postponed?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 22, 2008

According to the report “Tougher laws on way for smokers, says health chief” (December 11), our health minister, York Chow Yat-ngok, says he wants to establish a smoke-free city with tougher laws for smokers.

He wants to ban smoking anywhere in Hong Kong except our own homes, as well as increase import taxes on cigarettes.

Why not then just stop the selling of cigarettes in Hong Kong? The government wants to profit from the huge revenue from taxes on cigarette imports as long as smokers kill themselves in private.

Cigarette imports are up by 9.1 per cent this year but Dr Chow says this is not because more people are smoking. How would he know if he does not smoke himself?

I think people are smoking more because of all these restrictions because now, instead of smoking in a controlled environment like their office, a bar or a restaurant, they have to make an effort to go outside so end up smoking twice as much to make up for the inconvenience of having to go out: “Oh, might as well have one more for the road before we go back in.”

There are many other air-pollutant factors in Hong Kong – such as vehicles parked with running engines or restaurant exhaust systems blowing out hot air to the streets – that I don’t see anything being done about.

Has Dr Chow walked past Wellington Street recently? Or maybe it does not bother him while sitting in his chauffeur-driven BMW.

The smoking rooms at Hong Kong airport are a violation of human rights if you ask me.

You want to sell cigarettes all over Hong Kong, but yet you want to put all smokers in a “gas chamber” environment that is probably accelerating the chances of them getting cancer.

With all the space at the airport, the smoking rooms could have been much larger, decorated better and have better ventilation. Is this the government’s idea of a silent “death sentence”?

Smoking is bad for you, but smokers also have the right to have places where they can smoke other than their homes or glass cages.

Leave that choice to us or the owners of bars and restaurants.

Next we will start seeing smoking rooms like you have at the airport all over the city, where it will be the only place you can smoke and slowly be the death of all us smokers.

Thank you, Dr Chow.

Deepak Nagrani, Pok Fu Lam

Just take a look at some of the latest developments in other countries and cities.

On October 27, Atlantic City council, in New Jersey, voted to overturn a smoking ban that took effect in the city’s 11 casinos and revert to a previous arrangement allowing smoking on up to 25 per cent of the casino floor for at least the next year. The revised measure took effect last month.

On October 3, the Swiss parliament adopted a new federal law on “protection from passive smoking”, allowing the setting up of physically separated, clearly marked and well-ventilated rooms called fumoirs for smokers at pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Singapore pubs and bars are allowed to have smoking rooms of not more than 10 per cent of the total floor area since a total smoking ban came into effect in July 2007.

Starting from next year in Taiwan, hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and other entertainment outlets will be allowed to set up smoking rooms of not more than 20 per cent of the total floor area.

In Malaysia, smoking is prohibited in air-conditioned cafes or restaurants, except in a segregated smoking area, consisting of no more than one-third of the total area, with adequate ventilation facilities.

This restriction does not extend to pubs, discos and nightclubs.

In France, cafes, restaurants, clubs and bars are allowed to build smoking rooms of not more than 20 per cent of the total floor space.

Italy is the fourth country in the world to enact a nationwide smoking ban. But independently ventilated smoking rooms are allowed.

These places all have tough tobacco-control measures. Yet they remain flexible in implementation.

To promote social harmony and avoid unnecessary confrontation, the Hong Kong government should also be more flexible and open in considering delaying the smoking ban in bars and pubs as well as other alternative measures to reconcile the preferences of smokers and non-smokers.

Anita To, Wan Chai

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