SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

Bans set to make HK no-smoking city


Radical government proposals to ban smoking in most indoor places would virtually make Hong Kong a no-smoking city outside private homes.
The proposals, to be discussed at the Legislative Council on Monday, seek to prohibit smoking in offices, shops and factories with bosses empowered to enforce the law.
The proposals also seek to completely ban smoking in all restaurants, bars and karaoke lounges, as earlier reported.
Schools, universities and indoor workplaces would become no-smoking zones while the ban would be gradually extended to other public indoor premises such as bathhouses, nightclubs and mahjong parlours.
The new Tobacco Control Office would be empowered to prosecute offenders. In addition, the Government would allow more graphic health warnings on cigarette products.
The proposed amendments to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance are outlined in a discussion paper to be tabled to the Legislative Council health services panel meeting on Monday.
There is currently no legislation regulating smoking in indoor workplaces. But a recent survey by the Census and Statistics Department found that about 733,000 employees were subject to passive smoking, the government paper says. Company managers would be given the same powers now conferred on restaurant bosses to enforce the smoking ban. These powers include warning the smoker to stop and if the warning is ignored, calling the police.
"Consideration will be given to granting a longer grace period to businesses who demonstrate genuine difficulty in complying with the smoking ban requirement," the paper says.
There would be a period of six to 12 months before smoking was prohibited in all restaurants, regardless of their size and capacity.
The Government is also seeking to tighten tobacco sponsorship rules by banning the brand names of tobacco products from being used in the promotion of any sponsored event.
Hawker stalls and other small retailers would be banned from carrying tobacco advertising.
It has been estimated that $157 million was spent on medical bills arising from passive smoking in 1999.
The Government said existing legislation requiring restaurants with more than 200 seats to designate a third of their area as no-smoking zones had been "problematic" and had created conflict between smokers and non-smokers. An assessment would be conducted to determine the economic impact of the proposals on the affected industries, the paper said.