Thursday, October 19, 2006

Put that cigarette out!

Yes, that's right! The HK Legislature has passed a law banning smoking in public places including restaurants, parks, and even beaches!

Read about it here:

Hong Kong smokers told to butt out in public

October 19 2006 at 04:24PM

By James Pomfret
Hong Kong - Hong Kong legislators on Thursday passed a ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces, as well as restaurants, parks and beaches starting from January 1 next year.

But bars, saunas, nightclubs and mahjong parlours, serving people aged over 18, will be exempted from the ban till mid-2009.

"This is going to send a very strong message to our next generation, that smoking is not tolerated as it once was," said Dr Homer Tso, chairman of the Council on Smoking and Health.

According to Hong Kong government statistics there were nearly 800 000 daily smokers in the city of 6.9 million last year, representing some 14 percent of the population.

While not as high as countries like France, Japan or China - Hong Kong's total health related costs from active and passive smoking have been estimated by the University of Hong Kong at HK$5.3 billion (about R5,1-billion) per year.

Several European countries, such as Italy and Ireland, as well as cities in Australia and the United States have similar smoking bans. The government angered lawmakers before the bill was passed, saying it wanted to consider the practicality of building "smoking rooms" in public venues like restaurants. The government had previously ruled out such a move.

"Smoking rooms can't be accepted," said Andrew Cheng, a Democratic party lawmaker, who accused the government of making a U-turn under pressure from the catering and tobacco industries. But the government denied any political compromise, stressing the smoking room idea was just a proposal and would require legislative approval even if it were to go ahead. "We must give a little space for (smokers) to gradually adjust, this is the government's position," said the Health Secretary York Chow.

Despite the 30-month grace period for bars, karaokes and mahjong parlours, the industry eventually foresees heavy layoffs and even closures, given their heavy reliance on patronage from smokers.

"What has left a bad taste in my mouth is that the government has been insisting all along that the smoking ban is going to help our business, rather than acknowledging that the smoking ban is going to hurt them," said lawmaker Tommy Cheung, an ardent critic of the ban who represents the catering sector.

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