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Smoking Rooms Not Right For HK, Expert Says

Dan Kadison, SCMP – Updated on Dec 22, 2008

A number of Asian and European countries have placed restrictions on smoking but still permit smoking rooms to operate. But University of Hong Kong public health expert Anthony Hedley said this did not mean they would work in Hong Kong.

Deanna Cheung, British American Tobacco’s head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Hong Kong and Macau, said: “Smoking rooms are used in a lot of different countries. There must be some merit in it.

“A smoking room is a way to contain the smoke, and that can create a more comfortable environment for non-smokers to continue to enjoy themselves, whereas smokers can [still] enjoy themselves.

“So that’s accommodating both the interests of the smokers and the non-smokers. To us, that’s a more practical way of doing it instead of a blanket smoking ban.”

Countries where smoking rooms are allowed under certain circumstances include Singapore, Malaysia, France, Germany and Italy. Taiwan also permits them.

“Around the globe, a small number of countries have adopted extreme measures, banning indoor smoking in all work and public places, including age-restricted venues,” BAT said. “We believe such an approach goes too far and the Hong Kong government should not follow suit. In fact, many other countries allow a certain degree of flexibility in their legislation.”

But Professor Hedley said smoking rooms would not protect smokers or stop gases and particulates escaping into outer areas.

“Yes, there are smoking rooms in other countries. That doesn’t mean they’re right,” he said.

“We’re not talking about other countries. We’re talking about Hong Kong. And I think there are many, many reasons we don’t need them here and [why] they won’t work.”

He said users would be exposed to dangerous “ambient fine particulates” even with a ventilation system. Inside the room, “it would be several hundred micrograms per cubic metre above the roadside levels in Central, which we know are extremely poisonous and damaging to health”, he said.

“The street-level pollution pales into insignificance compared with the levels that would be created in a smoking room.”

And non-smokers were at risk as smoke leaked from smoking rooms. “It’s predictable and it can be demonstrated that they [smoking rooms] actually contaminate the surrounding air,” he said.

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