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Should The Full Smoking Ban be Delayed?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 11, 2008

There has been much debate about whether or not the current exemptions that permit smoking in many bars should be extended.

The fact is, however, that many of these establishments are really restaurants, which also serve drinks.

They have somehow managed to get around the laws banning smoking in restaurants – the sooner that anomaly stops, the better.

There is little point in prohibiting smoking in restaurants if this simply results in groups of smokers lighting up on the street immediately by the open frontage of a restaurant. Their noxious fumes permeate the restaurant even though they may be technically outside. Regulations need to be introduced here, as they have been in other jurisdictions, banning smoking in the close vicinity of bars and restaurants.

Passers-by on the street are now subject to the smoke emitted by groups of smokers loitering outside almost every restaurant in town.

As you approach offices these days, those shirking work for a cigarette pollute the entrances and, incidentally, give an unfortunate first impression of the company that employs them.

Perhaps a way needs to be found for those determined to hurt themselves by smoking to be able to do so without subjecting passers-by to the known health dangers of passive smoking.

It is surely an absurdity for cigarettes to be sold tax-free at our frontier checkpoints, which not only deprives the government of that lost tax income but can be seen as offering encouragement to smokers who travel. The government loses twice over, because smokers are likely to cost the health services a lot when the deadly effects of their habit hit home in later years.

Let us be clear about the matter. Other dangerous drugs (Ice, heroin) are banned. That’s because taking them kills people. But for historical reasons, taking the almost equally dangerous tobacco products is still regarded by many as acceptable.

But smoking also kills people, thousands a day worldwide. While one person may choose to risk his health by smoking, he does not have the right to risk the health of others – passive smokers, that is – whose comfort and health he selfishly ignores.

It is high time more stringent measures were introduced to help limit the number of Hong Kong people who will die from smoking-induced illnesses.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

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