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Law should not punish landlords for illegal smoking in bars

SCMP letter from a part owner of the Railway tavern (smoking bar) in Tai Wai He ‘forgets’ the licensee should be on the premises when open

Jun 27, 2012

Allan Dyer’s suggestion that bar owners should be held responsible for illegal smoking in their premises is too extreme and would be totally unjust (“Smoking bans are not enforced”, June 20).

Provided that a bar licensee and staff have advised customers that it is against the law to smoke inside their premises, they have adequately fulfilled both their legal and social obligations.

Just as Mr Dyer admits in his letter, determined smokers often turn abusive and violent when challenged for ignoring this ban.

Bar workers are neither policemen nor tobacco control officers.

It is unfair to suggest that these lower-paid employees should also take on the role of law enforcers.

Likewise, it is unjust for the licensee to be held accountable for breaches of this law within his premises, provided he has not actively encouraged this misbehaviour.

He cannot be in attendance 24/7. It would be far too extreme to threaten a bar owner with the loss of his investment, probable bankruptcy of his business and the consequential termination of employees’ contracts because some third party has chosen to break the law.

What precisely is Mr Dyer expecting a barman to do when confronted by a customer who purchases a drink and then just lights up, ignoring the signs and advice that smoking in the premises is illegal? Is he supposed to leave the bar service area unattended, ignore his other duties and involve himself in a possible fight with the offender? And why pick only on small-business bar owners Mr Dyer? That’s another injustice in itself.

Why not take your suggestion to its logical conclusion and make the directors of major property companies responsible for the illegal smoking which goes on in the toilets of their malls and office blocks?

Next, Mr Dyer could have the directors of public and private hospitals struck off the Medical Council of Hong Kong’s doctors’ list because patients have been found smoking in fire exit staircases.

This is only a start. I could provide far more potential injustices if he persists.

No, Mr Dyer, illegal smoking is a criminal offence and dealing with it is the duty of policemen and other relevant law enforcement officers in accordance with priorities.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin

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