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Smoking Rooms Being Considered

Dan Kadison – Nov 24, 2008 – SCMP

With the second phase of a smoking ban coming into effect next summer, government-commissioned consultants are studying the feasibility of having smoking rooms in Hong Kong – and they have even built an experimental enclosure for testing.

“When the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2006 was passed, the administration undertook to commission consultants with relevant expertise to study the technical feasibility of a smoking room,” a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said.

The study started last August, and experts were trying to determine whether a smoking room could provide “effective separation” and protect the health of non-smokers, the spokesman said.

As of now, “the administration has not reached any conclusions regarding smoking rooms, neither on its feasibility nor applicability”, the spokesman said.

Findings of the feasibility study are expected to be announced during the first quarter of next year.

The smoking room being considered is different from another opposed proposal, one where people could stay, smoke and enjoy themselves in a partitioned, ventilated area.

James Middleton, chairman of the anti-tobacco committee of Clear The Air, a Hong Kong environmental group, called the new smoking room study “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.

“It’s already been proven that it doesn’t work – that in any contiguous area, where the smoking room, with an opening door, is connected to a non-smoking area, the smoke will go through. Every time the door opens, smoke will pass to the other area. There are worldwide expert studies on it.”

Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, a proponent of smoking rooms, said he had spoken to Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok about them.

The secretary for health was “still studying it”, Mr Cheung said. “He’s built a smoking room and is looking at the feasibility of it.”

Under the next phase of the smoking ban, people will no longer be able to smoke in places once given a grace period, such as bars, nightclubs, and mahjong parlours. The first stage of the ban began last January.

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