Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

July 19th, 2009:

Enforcement Policy Forthe Regulation Of Smoking In Smoke Free Premises, Places And Vehicles$file/smoke%20free%20enforcement%20policy.pdf

Legal Responsibility of Bars and Nightclubs Owner


Hong Kong is a world leader in environmental foot-dragging. From our toxic air to our mildly poisonous seas, we struggle to move our environmental-protection laws towards international standards. And that’s before you even talk about the environmental damage that is deliberately caused, such as the endless pouring of concrete into our country parks.

But there is one area in which Hong Kong seems to have been successful. In one short week we have managed to reduce substantially the number of plastic bags handed out in the city. I imagine that there are one or two people who aren’t in favour of reducing this environmental scourge, but that’s perhaps because none of these critics have accidentally inhaled one while swimming at Shek O.

In any case, our ingenious method of controlling the distribution of plastic bags is that if you want one at the supermarket you now have to pay for it. Some sources have estimated that this has resulted in an 85 per cent reduction in their use. I would guess that the average cost of my shopping at Wellcome or ParknShop is about HK$200 per visit. If I need three plastic bags to hold everything, I am looking at 0.75 per cent added to my bill. It has only been a bit more than a week, but I can guarantee that I have never and I will never pay that extra 0.75 per cent for the convenience of not having to stuff my briefcase full of mangoes or risk derision from my colleagues by carrying around a canvas bag.

And for one last comparison, look at the impact of the smoking ban. Under the rules, a smoker lighting up in the wrong place can potentially be fined HK$5,000. It’s no longer legal to smoke in bars and nightclubs and places like that, but it’s not the owner who gets fined, it’s the smokers themselves. Strangely, the owners don’t seem to have any legal responsibility at all.

A quick stroll through Lan Kwai Fong in the evening will reveal that there are plenty of smokers ready to risk the HK$5,000 fine to have the luxury of slowly poisoning themselves to death in a public area. But these same smokers can also be seen sporting environmentally friendly shopping bags when buying their air fresheners and anti-stain toothpaste.

When investing, we are all ready to give away the certainty of a small amount of money in favour of the possibility of some larger amount. But even the biggest risk-taker, who is prepared to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on investment ideas or who will happily accept the near certainty of death from smoking, isn’t going to forgo that  50 cents at the supermarket.

Contact Alan Alanson at