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Hong Kong Smoking Ban

What do you think about the smoking ban after a year?

Published in the SCMP – Updated on Dec 31, 2007

We should look ahead at how to make the prohibition of smoking in restaurants and other places in Hong Kong more effective in 2008 and beyond.

The ban has resulted in smoke-free shops, hotel lobbies and some (but not all) bars and restaurants. Dining out in a smoke-free atmosphere makes for a great improvement but too many bars-cum-restaurants have exemptions, making the visitor obliged to inhale smoke emitted by others.

That carries with it even greater health risks to the unfortunate staff, who are obliged to breathe in second-hand smoke every day at their workplace. The long-term effects of this will sadly mean illness, even death, for some of them.

The sooner these numerous exemptions are withdrawn, the better.

In public areas where smoking is supposed to be prohibited, smokers are often seen indulging their habit. These include train stations and the Central escalator, for example.

More effective enforcement action is clearly needed in such places.

Many restaurants have set up smoking areas outside their entrances, with an open frontage to the street. Consequently, patrons inside are still subjected to smokers’ fumes, blown in off the street. Clearly, such smoking areas should be out of range of the restaurants.

Office building approaches are now littered with discarded fag ends and when you visit an office block, you often have to pass by people smoking heavily on both sides of the entrance. Firms should make provision for smokers on a rooftop or terrace, and there should also be in-house quitting campaigns.

As the intention of the legislation is to see a general reduction in smoking, the duty-free allowance for cigarettes should be withdrawn.

More sustained campaigns against smoking are clearly needed. But this first year of partial prohibition has generally been accepted and is certainly to be welcomed.

What is now needed is to stiffen the provision of anti-smoking methods, as outlined above, with the intention of better safeguarding the health of us all, smokers and non-smokers alike.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

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