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January 30th, 2012:

Display ban demand in war on weed

Hong Kong Standard

Monday, January 30, 2012

Medical students are calling for a ban on the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products at store counters and street stalls, calling them “omnipresent.”

The call came after the students from the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong collected 1,663 signatures for a petition in four hours of canvassing yesterday on Lee Garden Road, Causeway Bay.

“We hope that keeping cigarettes away from the public view will make it difficult for those who recently quit to be tempted, as well as discouraging people from picking up the habit,” petition organizer Denise Cheng Ka-yu said.

The group said tobacco products should be stored out of sight under the counter, or in shuttered cupboards.

A ban on point-of-sale displays, the activists said, may work better than a price increase as it will remove a major source of temptation among smokers who are struggling to quit.

“Those who are trying to give up find themselves wavering and deciding to pick up a pack of cigarettes after looking at the displays – even though they’d gone down to the shop to buy something else,” Cyrus Loi Ho-yeung said.

Lam Tai-hing, director of the university’s School of Public Health, said tobacco companies are exploiting a loophole in advertising laws by making full use of these displays, which have the same impact as cigarette advertisements.

Despite Hong Kong having a low percentage rate of smokers, there is no room for complacency, as there are still more than 600,000 smokers whose health is at risk, Lam said.

A display ban would be unlikely to go down well with vendors, as they fear it will deal a severe blow to profits.