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Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 30, 2009 – SCMP

Non-smoker Callan Anderson (Talkback, January 23) states that current laws are forcing smokers onto the footpaths. He argues (as would tobacco company spokesmen) for certain establishments to apply for exemptions “so that those who want to smoke can, and those who do not smoke do not have to go in”.

He avoids the point that anti-smoking laws are enacted to protect the workers in all workplace premises and they are legally entitled to a safe working environment.

Because the government granted qualified establishment exemptions under political pressure, Hong Kong smokers now consume 38.2 million more duty-paid cigarettes per month than in pre-ban 2006 while the number of people smoking has actually gone down.

Studies from Duke University [in the US] show that pictures of people smoking stimulate the cravings of people to smoke even when they are trying to quit.

More than 1,300 people die from passive smoking in Hong Kong per year.

Mr Anderson mentions the financial impact of the smoking ban and suggests “full implementation be delayed or amended to help the catering and entertainment industry”.

Again, these are words spouted worldwide by tobacco companies trying to maintain their business by forecasting doom and gloom.

In fact Hong Kong restaurant trade takings were up 30.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2008 compared with the third quarter of pre-ban 2006.

It is strange to read a stated non-smoker quoting Big Tobacco mantras.

He states, relating to the history of opium and tobacco in Hong Kong, that “governments were all too happy to propagate [them] for tax-raising reasons until very recently”.

The treatment of smoking-related illnesses and loss of productivity costs Hong Kong HK$5.3 billion per year versus only HK$3.06 billion collected in tobacco taxation. When loss of life is included, the annual cost of smoking to Hong Kong is HK$73.32 billion.

In the Legislative Council 18 months ago a motion was raised to ban smoking on the street within a set distance of building entrances and this was put on the shelf. It is time it was raised again along with tobacco taxation.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air

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