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Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 07, 2009 – SCMP

I take issue with the twin assertions by Markus Shaw (Talkback, January 3) that “smoking is not an environmental issue” or that it does “not belong in the same debate as air pollution”.

Globally, smoking kills about 5 million people every year and no one has the right to dismiss this as inconsequential; to do so would be inhumane.

Tobacco’s environmental costs include fire damage due to careless smokers; increased cleaning costs; and widespread environmental harm from large-scale deforestation (trees are cut down to cure tobacco), pesticide and fertiliser contamination, and discarded litter. Tobacco’s total economic cost reduces national wealth, gross domestic product, by as much as 3.6 per cent. Smoking causes over a million fires each year, burning down forests and urban property, leading to more than 17,000 deaths, many more injuries, at an estimated global cost of US$27 billion.

In concrete terms, there are 1.4 billion smokers in the world, each discarding cartons, matches, ash and about 20 cigarette ends daily – amounting to more than 20 billion cigarette ends containing carcinogens every single day. About one third of all litter, where litter content has been evaluated, is cigarette litter.

Both indoor and outdoor pollution are serious health, environmental and economic problems that require addressing urgently in Hong Kong.

Dr Judith Mackay, director, Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control

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