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Chow says smoking ban will not hurt entertainment industry

Margaret Chan, SCMP

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said on Wednesday the recent extension of the non-smoking ban in Hong Kong would not lead to business closures or job layoffs.

Since July 1, the controversial smoking ban was extended to another six types of entertainment establishments in the territory. This included clubs, bars, mahjong premises, nightclubs, massage establishments and bathhouses.

Vincent Fang Kang, the vice-chairman of the Liberal Party, told the Legislative Council some industries were worried about the financial impact of the ban.

He said the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group feared many of their businesses would have to close. Mr Fang said the group was also worried that some 100,000 staff could lose their jobs.

But Dr Chow rejected these suggestions. He replied by emphasising that the smoking ban was necessary for the “public good”.

“It is common knowledge that smoking is hazardous to health,” Dr Chow said.

“Greater efforts in tobacco control could reduce the number of smokers and the harm of second-hand smoke.

He said it would also help reduce the cost of public health spending. Millions of dollars is spent each year treating smoking-related illnesses.

“Protection of public health through banning smoking at all indoor public places and workplaces was the objective of the amendment to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, as well as the consensus reached between the government and the Legco in 2006.” he noted, in a written reply to Mr Fang.

Dr Chow said these businesses had been given plenty of time to prepare for the extension of the smoking ban.
“Both overseas and local data show that such bans have not caused any long-term direct impact on the business or employment of the catering and entertainment industries,” he added.

“Although some local restaurants and karaoke bars had expressed worries that the smoking ban might lead to business losses and lay-offs, Census and Statistics Department statistics showed that restaurant receipts had surged by around 30 per cent after the smoking ban had taken effect for around two years since 2007,” explained Dr Chow.

The health secretary noted that employment had actually increased in the hospitality industry during this period.
“In any case, greater efforts in tobacco control would only help reduce the number of smokers as well as the harm of second-hand smoke, thereby improving the health of more people in our community and cutting down on our medical expenditure,” he said.

Dr Chow said the Food and Health Bureau would continue to monitor the implementation of the smoking ban and help the industries adapt to the ban.

Health experts say around 6,000 (actually 7000) people die each year in Hong Kong of smoking-related illness and about 1,000 (1324) are estimated to die from second-hand or passive smoking.

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