Smoking ban bill draws divergent opinions

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Issue 992, Page 3
Word count: 551
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Widely divergent views were expressed among lawmakers in the Second Standing Committee yesterday concerning whether or not local casinos should be completely banned from smoking.

The bill of the System for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoking was discussed for the first time in the standing committee after having passed the first reading on January 5.

Committee president Chan Chak Mo told reporters after the closed-door meeting that 39 submissions of opinions were received during the consultation period from related industries and civilians.

Among those submitted by the general public, Chan said a majority were in favour of a complete tobacco smoking ban in indoor areas.

Yet, there were also some smokers who deemed that a “flexible ban” is necessary.

As for the dinning industry and companies that operate entertainment venues, Chan Chak Mo said generally they opposed a strict smoking ban, and believed an indoor non-smoking area can be set up to solve the problem.

In addition, the committee president said the bill might give rise to an unfair situation and a “grey area” especially when it takes effect in restaurants or other dinning places.

This, he added, is related to the definitions of indoor and outdoor.

If a restaurant operates under a license that allows it to put tables outside of the shop, patrons sitting in that area will also be prohibited from smoking even though they are basically in an outdoor area.

In contrast, if a restaurant put tables outside of the shop without a corresponding license, patrons who smoke there will not be subject to the regulation and the restaurant can only be charged with unlicensed furnishings, Chan Chak Mo explained.

On the other hand, a major discussion was carried out focusing on whether all indoor areas in casinos should be banned from smoking.

The standing committee was not able to reach a unanimous opinion yesterday.

Advanced countries such as the US and Australia had to amend their policies eventually to set up non-smoking and smoking zones in casinos, despite complete smoking bans were implemented originally, according to Chan Chak Mo.

In addition, the Singaporean government also allowed people to smoke in 70 percent of the total casino area.

Chan Chak Mo said for a country like Singapore that is “very much concerned about health”, it also has to “surrender to [gaming] tax and the tourism industry”.

Although it is not necessary for Macau to follow Singapore, he said it has a significant implication on deciding a solution for casinos.

The Second Standing Committee is going to ask the SAR government to provide related data and justifications to support the bill, as well as to provide information about how much casinos may loss if a complete smoking ban is introduced.

Chan Chak Mo said the lawmakers were also concerned about whether croupiers would have the right to choose not to be on duty in a smoking zone.

According to the bill, health venues, schools or other locations specially for people under 18 years old, fuel supply places, Legislative Assembly, judicial authorities, government departments, workplaces, hotels, bars, karaoke lounges, restaurants, fresh food markets, parks and gardens, beaches and flyovers, amongst other indoor areas, will be refrained from smoking.

Yet, casinos, sauna lounges, massage centres and dance halls are free from the regulation as proposed in the bill.


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