SCMP Monday, January 8, 2001

Most back smoking curbs, says Democrat survey


Most people think smoking in restaurants and offices should be banned, according to a Democratic Party survey.
The poll of 1,891 people found 71 per cent supported the introduction of laws to put the ban into effect.
Currently, restaurants with 200 seats or more have to designate not less than one-third of seats as a no-smoking area.
Party legislator Dr Law Chi-kwong said introducing a blanket ban would end "confusing" messages. He proposed the Government consider authorising health inspectors to help spot people smoking in no-smoking areas. The party plans to introduce a private member's bill to ban smoking in offices and restaurants.
But a Liberal Party legislator said the survey was meaningless. Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who represents the catering sector in the legislature, said a ban would hit restaurants hard.
"It is simply pointless to conduct such a poll. There are only 700,000 to 800,000 smokers in Hong Kong. It's easy for them to reach such findings."
He said conservative estimates indicated a total ban on smoking in restaurants would cost them between 10 and 20 per cent of business. Some expected a loss of up to 40 per cent.
"Had it not been for the potential resultant huge economic loss, the catering industry would not mind banning smoking in restaurants," Mr Cheung said.
Non-affiliated legislator Bernard Charnwut Chan is to table a motion at Wednesday's Legco sitting, calling on the Government to gauge public opinion on extending bans on smoking to a wider range of places.
Non-affiliated lawmaker Dr Lo Wing-lok will amend the motion to urge the Government to review the enforcement of the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance. The Frontier's Cyd Ho Sau-lan will urge government departments to tackle passive smoking with a view to implementing, by phases, total prohibition of smoking in indoor public places.
Ms Ho's amendment is unlikely to succeed as both the Liberal Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong will vote against it. Mr Cheung will urge economic assessments before considering whether it is necessary to designate more public places as non-smoking.