Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


The government has passed laws to prevent smoking in all workplaces, including establishments that previously had exemptions.

Overseas, where similar bans have been implemented, the onus is on licensees to prevent smoking on their premises or lose their licences. This is not the case here, therefore they choose not to act.

Unlike in overseas jurisdictions, there are no demarcated non-smoking zones outside the entrances of buildings, restaurants and bars.

The Tobacco Control Office is 90 per cent understaffed. It is ludicrous to expect 85 officers, soon to be 99, to cover Hong Kong on three shifts. They need at least 1,000 to patrol entertainment areas, while the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and other government servants will enforce parks, markets and playing fields from September.

Clear the Air has been accompanying a film crew around Hong Kong entertainment areas. Smoking is blatantly continuing in ground-level bars, condoned by licensees. Upstairs bars and mahjong parlours are worse.

Those premises enforcing the ban see crowds of smokers outside their entrances blocking pavements.

Bars and tables are placed illegally on the pavements, and bar staff serve patrons illegally on the pavements while passers-by are forced to walk in the road to get past the toxic smoke, the revellers and cigarette butts.

These laws are intended to protect employees in the workplace. All they have achieved is to move the problem mostly from indoors to outdoors.

Passive smoking kills 111 people per month, and the government deliberately allows the situation to continue with minuscule enforcement. And flawed licensee liability laws mean they are not legally obliged to enforce the ban.

James Middleton, chairman, anti- tobacco committee, Clear the Air

The smoking ban was extended to nightclubs and other entertainment venues last month. However, some people are questioning its effectiveness (“Many feel free to flout smoke ban”, August 1).

It would appear that individuals are continuing to smoke in some venues, such as bars, in contravention of the law.

I suspect that some bar owners, if they cannot get smokers to stop, just decide not to bother trying. If the government does not do something about this, the problem will only get worse and we will witness an increasing number of smokers flouting the law.

I would like to see more smoke detectors installed in nightclubs, which would prevent people from lighting up.

I welcome the new legislation. In spite of the problems, you do see fewer people smoking, so there is less exposure to second-hand smoke.

Ella Chan Ho-chi, Hung Hom

Gary Brand (Talkback, August 5) provides an excellent summary of the reasons why there should be both public and commercial observance of the smoking ban. It will be good for business and for the health of employees and customers.

The threat of civil disobedience was a prominent part of the shroud-waving by opponents of the tobacco control bill.

This was led by the tobacco industry, a relatively small clique in the catering industry and some legislators.

It is time that all lawmakers came out with a clear and unambiguous declaration that there are no grounds for defiance of the law and that rigorous penalties should be applied to those who facilitate defiance of it.

In other countries it is law-breaking that threatens landlords’ livelihoods, not smoke-free policies.

Anthony Hedley, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong

Comments are closed.