By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
A consensus still could not be reached yesterday within the Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly concerning the areas where tobacco smoking should be prohibited.
The committee held the second meeting to deliberate the bill of the System for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoking. President Chan Chak Mo told reporters after the closed-door meeting, “no progress had been made and there is a major controversy regarding the legislative principles [of the bill] and why casinos are exempt from the smoking ban”.
According to the proposal, smoking will not be forbidden in casinos, sauna lounges, massage centres and dance halls.
Because of the divergent views and no agreement was obtained among the lawmakers in the standing committee, Chan Chak Mo said they will not be able to present any suggestions but can only reflect their opinions to the government.
“It will then depend on the government’s attitude and how they are going to revise the bill. We will at the same time try to provide more information for the lawmakers to study and discuss before the final voting.” Chan Chak Mo said.
“It’s inevitable that the lawmakers have different views on the smoking ban as they come from different sectors or industries and there are both smokers and non-smokers among them,” he added.
The committee president said he is unable to predict when the deliberation can be completed or whether or not the bill can be passed on final reading.
The next meeting of the standing committee will be held on May 10. Chan Chak Mo said the lawmakers have agreed to skip the “two most controversial provisions” – Articles 4 and 5 regarding the places where the smoking ban will and will not be applied – and move on to discuss the remaining provisions in the coming meetings.
He said government representatives will be invited to join the meetings only after the internal discussion on the bill is completed.
The standing committee, Chan Chak Mo said, plans to ask the government representatives about what the reasons are to exempt casinos from the smoking ban, the definitions of “outdoor” and “indoor” areas as well as how they can execute the law effectively.
He added that a lot of lawmakers questioned the government’s capability to ensure tobacco smoking is fully banned in offices, karaoke lounges, night clubs or other private areas.
According to the submissions collected during the consultation period, Chan Chak Mo said a majority of the opinions from residents and social organisations were in favour of a complete smoking ban in all indoor areas, while some from the business sector and related industries doubted why certain places can enjoy a smoking ban exemption.