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Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Dec 31, 2008 – SCMP

K. Stanton and Markus Shaw (Talkback, December 29) fail to raise any new justification for the government to abandon essential public health measures in its tobacco control policy, let alone to create a workplace that damages employees’ health.

While it is a relief that Mr Stanton’s chest is “clear”, we don’t base public health legislation on samples of one and his good fortune does not change the probability of throat and lung cancers, heart attacks and stroke in catering workers. Given the health evidence and workers’ need for jobs, they should not be denied clean air in their workplace, whether they are smokers or non-smokers.

The present “non-smoking” and “smoking” venues form an unsustainable recipe for both health risks and unfair competition which the majority in the hospitality industry does not want.

Mr Shaw’s best rationalisation of this situation is to claim that there are large numbers of people “who don’t care”.

There is absolutely no community-wide evidence for that and a truly representative vote “to let the people decide” would refute the arguments about a “nanny state”.

I am not an “autocrat”, simply a public health physician, paid from the public purse to teach, research, advocate and take action on the prevention of cancers and cardio-respiratory disease.

On the other hand, Mr Shaw’s stunning declaration in favour of cigarette smoke pollution in buildings is a surprising stance from a self-styled environmentalist.

I would not want to make a crass distinction between the protection of outdoor and indoor environments in Hong Kong.

Anthony Hedley, school of public health, University of Hong Kong

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