Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

November 1st, 2006:

Feasibility Study On Installing Smoking Rooms

Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):


At the resumption of the Second Reading debate on the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2005 in this Council on 19 October this year, the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food said that the Government would study the feasibility of installing smoking rooms. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has any evidence to prove the effectiveness of smoking rooms in preventing second-hand smoke from affecting the neighbouring environment;

(b) whether the above study will be conducted solely by the government departments concerned or undertaken by commissioned consultants;

(c) of the estimated expenditure on the above study; whether such expenditure would be borne wholly by the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau and whether other services of the departments concerned will be affected by the additional expenditure;

(d) whether it will invite health care practitioners, anti-smoking groups, academics in building services and other relevant groups to participate in the entire study; and

(e) whether it will report to this Council on the progress of the study regularly?


Madam President,

First of all, I wish to reiterate that what we propose to study is a room which is solely meant for smokers to smoke therein. There should not be any other activities going on in the room (including the serving of food and beverages and provision of any other type of services). Non-smokers and employees should not be allowed to enter into the room. I also wish to emphasize that with the passage of the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2005 (the Bill), the top priority of the Administration at the moment is to ensure its effective implementation. We will pool our resources together to mount an intensive publicity campaign on the many amendments made to the Ordinance, in particular the smoking ban that will come into force starting January 1, 2007, with the aim to ensure that the public is well informed of the stipulations for compliance. At the same time, we will continue to actively promote smoking cessation services and anti-smoking education in the hope that the number of smokers, in particular teenage smokers, could be reduced as many as possible. The proposal of setting up “smoking rooms” is not part of the Bill, neither is the proposed feasibility study our working priority at this stage.

My replies to the various parts of the question are as follows:

(a) As pointed out by my colleagues from the Bureau during the deliberations of the Bills Committee over the past year or so, no sufficient evidence from any scientific research or internationally accepted ventilation standards are available at the moment to support the feasibility of setting up the type of “smoking room” mentioned above, on which we propose to conduct a study. This is precisely why I raised the idea of carrying out a feasibility study in my speech at the Second Reading of the Bill. One of the focuses of the study will be to find out whether it is technically feasible to effectively avoid the air outside the room from contamination by the secondhand smoke produced from within the room. The overriding principle is to protect the health of those who are outside the room.

With the new Ordinance coming into effect, it is envisaged that many of the smokers may have to resort to pursue their habit in outdoor areas. Road users in some busy districts may probably be left without a choice but to tolerate the intake of a lot of secondhand smoke. The primary consideration of setting up a “smoking room” is to afford protection to non-smokers by imposing a more effective separation between smokers and non-smokers.

(b) to (e) The Bill was just passed on October 19. To date, we have not yet commenced the study on the “smoking room” and have not reached any conclusion on its feasibility, neither have we worked out the details for the study, including the expenditure, the collaborative parties to take it forward or the details of its implementation.

Nevertheless, as I said at the Second Reading of the Bill, we must have collected sufficient scientific data and experimental evidence to prove its technical feasibility before we can be convinced of the feasibility of the “smoking room” or formulate any specific standards. Hence, it is anticipated that we shall need the prior assistance of experts from the engineering sector to carry out a technical study. We will also seek advice from other experts, as required, if and when we encounter any technical or professional problem.

Only after the completion of the proposed feasibility study will we be able to give further thought to this proposal and discuss whether it should be put into practice. At this stage, it is premature to jump to any conclusion. The study, together with the discussion in the process, will be open and transparent and the public and this Council will also be consulted at appropriate times.

Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Issued at HKT 13:21