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Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 12th 2009 – SCMP

In my view it should not, and this seems to be the view of the majority of correspondents. But we should be looking well beyond July this year.

The current trend will continue: smokers will find fewer and fewer places where they can smoke.

In time, smoking will be banned not only in all public places, but also in private homes; whether smokers like it or not it will happen, eventually.

Some radical thinking has to be done now in order to plan for that future; and the plan must accommodate two facts: first, there are a substantial number of smokers who will never give up; and second, many young people will start to smoke unless they are prevented from doing so.

First, smokers must have somewhere to smoke legitimately; refusal to accept this simple fact is unrealistic.

Smoking rooms in some bars have been suggested by some and rejected by the hardliners.

I have experienced a few smoking rooms at airports (from the outside), some that are unpleasant to be near, others that appear to work reasonably well.

If the demand is there they will be developed to meet the needs of those inside and those who prefer to stay outside.

Second, and more radically, the only way to stop young people from starting to smoke is to make it illegal. Nothing else will work.

Let Hong Kong lead the world by setting a date, maybe the last day of this year, after which it will be illegal to start smoking.

It will be very difficult and probably futile to attempt to prosecute anyone who will be over 18 years of age at the time the legislation comes into force, but very simple to prosecute those under that age at the time.

While many will claim that such a law is discriminatory, others might welcome the legislation as a good reason to resist pressure from their peers.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung

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