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Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 05, 2009 – SCMP

I write in support of Markus Shaw (Talkback December 29) and in response to Anthony Hedley (Talkback Dec 31), and James Middleton (Talkback December 30). I take exception to Professor Hedley’s description of Mr Shaw as “a self-styled environmentalist”.

As the head of the WWF in Hong Kong, Mr Shaw has a long and distinguished, and indeed successful, record as a defender of our environment.

The same cannot be said in my view of the Clear the Air lobby, which apparently includes Professor Hedley and Mr Middleton. These self-appointed guardians of clean air in Hong Kong have failed us. Hong Kong air is filthy and gets worse daily. No doubt the inevitable reply to this letter will be full of backslapping, self-congratulatory statistics, but just look out of the window. Perhaps it is time for new guardians?

Instead, certain members of the Clear the Air lobby have concentrated their efforts on imposing their will upon people’s lifestyle choices relating to smoking. I agree that those who do not want to eat, drink or travel with smokers should not be bound to do so.

This has now been achieved. But I also agree with Mr Shaw when he says “enough already”. It is time to move on to the issues that are really destroying our environment and to address the interests of those who do smoke.

Mr Middleton says that “less than 12 per cent of Hongkongers are daily smokers”. That is a very significant number of people. Their choices should be provided for, and allowing smoking bars has gone some small way to achieving this.

Mr Middleton further says that “there is no right to smoke in the Basic Law”. There are numerous legal activities for which no “right” is provided in the Basic Law – for example, the right to own and drive private motor vehicles, which quite apart from noise pollution and physical danger, overwhelmingly pollute the atmosphere far more than tobacco smoke.

I would invite members of the Clear the Air lobby to assure the public, through these columns, that they no longer intend to drive or travel in these polluting private motor vehicles but will instead take public transport and thus by their example begin to eradicate vehicular pollution.

However, I rather doubt that the lobby members would be prepared to do this. That would be to interfere with their freedom of choice.

Robert Whitehead, Stanley

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