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Drastic Cut Of Outlets Selling Tobacco Can Help Curb Smoking

Feb 06, 2008 – SCMP

We should not be surprised by the findings of the survey conducted by the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre that an overwhelming majority of outlets were willing to sell cigarettes indiscriminately to under-18 minors in violation of the law (“Cigarettes easier for teenagers to buy”, January 21).

The relevant legislation has not worked. In pursuit of their economic interests, these outlets, be they supermarkets, convenience stores, news-stands, or small and large restaurants, were willing and able to flout the law with impunity and render it a mockery. Minors unable to buy cigarettes from one retailer, would quite quickly find one nearby who would sell them cigarettes and so they could satisfy their nicotine addiction. That is the crux of the problem – there are just too many outlets selling cigarettes, making effective enforcement impossible. Therefore, the government must quickly reduce the number of outlets and there must be a substantial cutback.

A drastically-reduced number of outlets will make enforcement of the law more cost-effective. At the same time, access to cigarettes will be made more inconvenient, requiring greater efforts from smokers, adults and minors alike, to source their killer substance. Nicotine is a poisonous and cancer-causing substance and its availability should be restricted, not facilitated at every street corner as it is now; otherwise, we should also be permitting the sale of cocaine and ketamine.

The government has the moral responsibility to protect lives, including harm from smoking. We must fight the aggressive importers and manufacturers of cigarettes and tobacco products by restricting their access to the market place.

Only then is there a chance to help prevent new generations of smokers from emerging. At the same time, it may also lead to a reduction in the number of existing smokers and their levels of consumption.

I urge the government to seriously consider a drastic reduction in the number of authorised outlets which sell cigarettes. I believe that this can reverse the continuing rise in cigarette consumption.

Ang Ah-lay, Causeway Bay

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