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Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 23, 2008

Peter Crush (Talkback, December 17) continues to make unsubstantiated statements on smoking which need correction.

He says: “Licensed bars and entertainment places are private premises to which customers are invited at a manager’s discretion and are not public places with right of access.”

Bars are only licensed if they possess a general, marine or light refreshment licence and are premises to which the public has access whether paid or by right.

No smoking is allowed in any licensed restaurant unless the premises obtained (farcical) qualified-establishment status.

Mr Crush says: “Nobody disputes that nicotine is an addictive drug and smoking kills, but like it or not, hundreds of millions of people worldwide still choose to smoke.”

This is correct. It is unfortunate he does not realise people smoke because they are addicted to nicotine (see reference), which acts on the brain’s dopamine receptors in the exact same way as heroin and cocaine and hence “choice” is not the main reason. Under occupational health laws, employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure safety and health.

A failure to maintain the workplace in a condition that is safe and without risks to health is an offence. By his own admission smoking (and passive smoking) kills and these bars are unhealthy when smoke is present.

Mr Crush says that governments do not outlaw tobacco, because they do not want to lose tax dollars. However, in 2007 the government received HK$2.8 billion in tobacco taxes.

The actual annual cost of tobacco to Hong Kong’s economy at 1998 rates was HK$5.3 billion in health care and loss of productivity. The cost, when value of life is included, is annually HK$73.32 billion, of which 23 per cent is attributable to passive smoking.

Mr Crush claims that the anti-tobacco lobby is not doing too well. In 1982 there were 23.3 per cent daily smokers here whereas by 2007 it had dropped to 11.8 per cent of the population.

Sadly, due to smoking exemptions, smokers consume 36.5 million more cigarettes per month than in pre-ban 2005-06.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air



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