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October 20th, 2006:

Chow Takes Flak Over Smoke Room Idea

Health chief York Chow Yat-ngok has come under heavy fire from pro- democracy lawmakers for the government’s “U-turn” on the controversial anti-smoking bill by proposing that smoking rooms be installed in some public areas.

Caroline Kim and Carrie Chan – Friday, October 20, 2006 – The Standard

Health chief York Chow Yat-ngok has come under heavy fire from pro- democracy lawmakers for the government’s “U-turn” on the controversial anti-smoking bill by proposing that smoking rooms be installed in some public areas.

The secretary for health, welfare and food was even accused of harboring political motives – to the extent of trying to win the catering sector’s votes in next year’s chief executive election.

“The allegations are ridiculous and groundless,” Chow retorted, denying that the “U-turn” was politically inspired.

“Definitely not. First of all, we have had no position on smoking rooms for some time. The concept of smoking rooms differs in different sectors. There are people who think that a smoking room is a place where you can smoke, enjoy food as well as other activities,” he said Thursday. “The proposal that I have now, [on which] we haven’t decided, and that we would like to investigate, is to find a room that might be able to allow people to smoke but would not allow any services or any other activities, something very much like those in the airport. Whether this is technologically and scientifically proven, and also technically feasible, then we have to investigate.”

Chow went on to defend the government’ stance: “If you look at the banned areas now, a lot of people, in particular smokers, would be forced to smoke on the street. Knowing that Hong Kong is such a densely populated area, we might encounter a lot of smokers in certain areas. If we could allow them to smoke in a confined space rather than disturbing pedestrians and non-smokers, then we would be able to more successfully segregate smokers and non- smokers. So, that is the main reason why we think that we need to look at this problem.”

After the bill’s passage, Chow told reporters: “We want the public to know that smoking will decline progressively and now is a good time to quit. The passage of the ordinance marks a historical moment and is a step forward for Hong Kong in becoming a smoke-free city.”

Catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan was accused of conspiring with Chow to support his amendments, which proposed adaptation periods of 90 days for restaurants.

But Cheung repeatedly denied the accusations, insisting he was not under political pressure. Although non- smokers will be able to enjoy smoke- free venues, the law is expected to negatively effect restaurants, the catering industry and karaoke operators, which are expected to be hit hardest, with an expected 20 percent loss in revenue.

But Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades president Simon Wong Ka-wo said: “If the people want it, we will find a way to deal with it.”

According to Wong, major restaurant companies have already begun organizing seminars and training frontline employees and executives on how to deal with the new law.

However, Wong said the transition will be most difficult for the city’s 5,500 smaller restaurants where blue-collar workers mostly eat, and smoke. Wong also said he feared that law enforcement will not be adequate, even with the recruitment of 30 inspectors by the Tobacco Control Office.

For Anthony Lock Kwok-on, managing director of one of Hong Kong’s major karaoke operators, California Red, it is a matter of changing a whole culture. “We will try hard to prepare for the changes but it’s more complicated than just replacing ash trays with no smoking signs,” he said.

In addition to all indoor areas and workplaces, smoking will not be allowed in outdoor areas at hospitals, universities and public swimming pools.

Hong Kong Anti-Tobacco Law

20 October, 2006

US judge refuses to let tobacco companies silence Hong Kong anti air-pollution group – agrees to hear Clear The Air arguments

With the Trademark “Marlboro Lights” at risk, Clear The Air may be able to accomplish what the Government and Legco failed to do in yesterday’s Smoking Ordinance amendment. On Oct. 10, Judge Kessler granted the pro-clean air organization permission to be heard in the US court.

The new Hong Kong anti-tobacco law, passed on Thursday, gives Philip Morris until 2008 to take the Marlboro Lights brand off the market. If the US judge agrees with Clear The Air, Philip Morris will be required show no objection to Clear The Air’s application for revocation of the “Marlboro LIGHTS” trademark in Hong Kong and anyone can then sell cigarettes with that name until 2008, destroying the value of the brand to Philip Morris