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Harm of passive smoking


Tim Hamlett’s rant about the new tobacco-control legislation in his Tim Hamlett’s Hong Kong column (July 1), directed at three public health advocates, is a tired rehash of old and poorly founded libertarian arguments.

These views particularly ignore the massive harm caused to the population by second-hand smoke.

The Hong Kong public has, by a large majority, supported smoke-free policies in public places and the hospitality sector for more than two decades.

While most people are unlikely to be impressed by Hamlett’s failed satire, I doubt anyone will agree with his claim that the tragedy of a perinatal death is a “mundane” matter. Active and passive smoking makes a very large contribution to bad outcomes of pregnancy, including poor fetal growth, perinatal deaths and health problems in survivors.

Evidence for the harm caused by second-hand smoke to mothers and infants in Hong Kong is well documented, and the new legislation will make an important contribution to the health of women working in previously smoky catering venues.

If Hamlett took the trouble to study and understand the interconnected issues behind tobacco promotion to young people (through watching advertisements and other brand-extension devices) and lifetime damage to health because of workplace exposure, he would be a better role model for his students of journalism.

Anthony Hedley, school of public health, University of Hong Kong

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