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2,000 March in Hong Kong Protest Against Smoking Ban in Bars – 24 May 2009

Hong Kong – Around 2,000 people took part in a protest march in Hong Kong Sunday calling for a blanket ban on smoking in bars and restaurants to be postponed. The protesters, mostly bar owners and employees, said they wanted the ban to be delayed for two years to allow the entertainment industry to cope with the effects of the economic crisis.

From July, smoking will be banned in all bars, nightclubs, karaoke lounges and sauna parlours and operators claim the ban may force half the city’s entertainment premises out of business.

A smoking ban first came into effect for bars and restaurants in Hong Kong on January 1, 2007, but hundreds of bars along with nightclubs and karaoke lounges were exempted until July 2009.

The city’s powerful entertainment industry lobby now wants a further delay, saying the timing of the ban will be devastating combined with the economic crisis and the current swine flu scare.

Anti-smoking campaigners have accused the city’s government of paying too much attention to the industry lobby and putting its interests ahead of concern over public health.

Less than one in five adults smoke in Hong Kong, a wealthy city of 7 million which has a low smoking rate compared to other countries and territories in the region.

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