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Tobacco Control and Govt’s BS reply

LCQ13: Tobacco Control

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is a question by the Hon Christopher Chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (April 24):


I have recently received complaints from members of the public about the ineffective enforcement of the tobacco control legislation by the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) under the Department of Health. Regarding the enforcement of the tobacco control legislation, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)of the number of fixed penalty notices/summonses issued to smoking offenders in each of the past five years, broken down by law enforcement agency in Annex 1;

(b)whether there is any difference between TCO’s procedure for handling complaints about smoking offences received during office hours and outside office hours; if so, of the details; of the criteria adopted by TCO for deciding whether or not to send their officers to the scene to look into a complaint;

(c)of the mode (unannounced or regular) and frequency of inspection by TCO’s officers on the black spots of smoking offences and other no-smoking areas;

(d)of the number of complaints received by the authorities from members of the public in the past three years about the ineffective enforcement of the tobacco control legislation by TCO, and the top five situations with most complaints about the ineffectiveness in law enforcement; whether they have assessed the effectiveness of TCO’s law enforcement work; if they have, of the details; if not, whether they will conduct such an assessment;

(e)how TCO follows up those complaints with evidence of smoking offences (e.g. photographs as well as information about time and places) and complainants’ contact information attached;

(f)of the measures taken by the authorities to tackle the situations where the venue managers condone smoking offences in their venues and disregard related complaints;

(g)of the current number of TCO’s law enforcement officers and whether the authorities have assessed if it is adequate; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, whether they have plans to increase the manpower in the short term; and

(h)whether it is an offence to smoke electronic cigarettes in no-smoking areas?



The Government has been taking a progressive and multi-pronged (CTA: BLUNT and outdated) approach in its tobacco control policies (CTA: BACKWARDS) , comprising legislation, enforcement, publicity, education, smoking cessation and taxation, with a view to minimise the harmful effects of tobacco on the public and the community. To further enhance tobacco control, the Department of Health (DH) established the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) in 2001 to promote a smoke free culture.TCO promotes smoking prevention and cessation through publicity and education programmes, and operates a Smoking Cessation Hotline to coordinate the provision of smoking cessation services in Hong Kong. China is also a signatory of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the relevant aspects have been extended to Hong Kong since 2006.

My reply to Hon Chung’s question is as follows:

(a)The number of fixed penalty notices and summonses (in brackets) issued by various law enforcement agencies in relation to smoking offence in the past five years is set out in Annex 2.

(b)Tobacco Control Inspectors (TCIs) of TCO are mainly responsible for frontline enforcement work, which includes handling enquiries and complaints about smoking, and inspections and prosecutions under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance. As the act of smoking usually lasts for a short period of time, and given the larger number of public areas and indoor workplaces designated as no smoking areas designated in various districts, it is impossible for TCIs to inspect the concerned venues immediately upon receiving reports of smoking offence.TCO follows up on all complaints about smoking offences received during and outside office hours according to established procedures, and contacts complainants for the details of each case, including the time and location of the smoking offence. Based on the information received in a complaint, surprise inspections on these premises may be conducted at specific time in the future.

(c)Besides during office hours, TCIs also conduct inspections on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays as well as at night time and in the early morning. In premises where smoking offences are prevalent, TCO takes vigorous enforcement actions and initiates more frequent inspections. From time to time, TCO conducts joint inspections and enforcement actions with other law enforcement agencies such as the Police. In 2012, TCIs received about 18 000 complaints on smoking offences, conducted more than 26 000 inspections and issued over 8 000 fixed penalty notices and about 180 summonses.

(d)The number of complaints received by TCO in relation to enforcement in the past three years (i.e.

2010 to 2012) is shown in Annex 3.

The major areas of complaints include inadequate manpower of TCO, failure for TCIs to arrive immediately at the venue concerned in a complaint and demand for expansion of no smoking areas.

The Administration monitors closely various statistics and indicators relating to tobacco control. The proportion of daily smokers (people who have a habit of smoking daily) among the population aged 15 and above dropped steadily from about 23.3% in the early 1980s to 11.1% in 2010.The declining trend in smoking prevalence is a useful indicator on the effectiveness of the progressive and multi-pronged approach in tobacco control and the sustained efforts by the community as a whole.

(e)Upon the receipt of a complaint on smoking offence from the public, TCO will contact the complainant for information and inspect the locations concerned to collect evidence in accordance with established procedures. Where there is sufficient evidence, TCO will take prosecution action.

(f)The Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance empowers (CTA: BUT SHOULD LEGISLATE) the manager of no smoking areas to enforce the relevant law to ensure that no person smokes in the premises he manages. The manager may (CTA: THE LAW SHOULD BE CHANGED TO ‘MUST’) call for police assistance if necessary. To enhance the knowledge of tobacco control legislation of managers of no smoking areas and to provide them with procedures and practical tips on implementing smoke free policy, TCO has drawn up a series of guidelines on implementing smoke free policy and organised regular talks on tobacco control legislation. Moreover, TCIs also disseminate these messages to venue managers when conducting inspections. Members of the public may express their views to TCO by telephone, facsimile or email.TCO follows up and carries out investigation on every case, and arranges for TCIs to inspect and take enforcement action on the premises concerned.

(g)The number of TCO staff carrying out frontline enforcement duties is 99.The Administration will review the manpower establishment from time to time to cope with needs. (CTA: TOTALLY INADEQUATE)

(h)Smoking of electronic cigarettes in a no smoking area is also an offence. If TCIs witness an offence, they will prosecute in accordance with relevant legislation and established procedures.


Source: HKSAR Government

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