Anti-smoking group ‘okay’ with exemption in casinos

Saturday, July 3, 2010
Issue 1053, Page 3
Word count: 499
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Smoking Cessation and Health Protection Association supports the Government’s proposal to exempt casinos and other designated venues from a smoking ban for three years, believing that a transition is necessary for the industries which are fundamental to the economy of Macau.

The latest tobacco smoking prevention and control draft bill presented by the Government to the Legislative Assembly on June 15 shows that casinos, bars, terraces, outdoor business areas (for example of cafés and restaurants), massage lounges and dance halls will not be subject to a ban on smoking for the first two years.

Then in the third year the Government will review the law in order to decide whether the exemption should continue for one more year.

Yet, karaoke lounges are not one of the exceptions in the draft bill.

Dr. Au Hon Sam, founding chairman of the Smoking Cessation and Health Protection Association told the Macau Daily Times on the phone this week that he hoped the Government can implement a “tougher law” and also introduce a complete smoking ban as soon as possible.

Yet, Dr. Au said he believed there must be “certain factors” behind the three-year transition plan, “probably because the Government also has to take into consideration the situation of all the industries in society”.

He reiterated that having a complete smoking ban is always his association’s goal as it is “an international trend, but at this moment “the social environment in Macau doesn’t allow us to do it yet”.

Imposing a total smoking ban in Macau is a challenge, Dr. Au admits, since it also involves smokers’, the Government’s and tobacco merchants’ point of view.

He agreed that the gaming industry is extremely crucial to Macau’s economy, and therefore he deemed it is appropriate to give casinos a transition period so that they can adapt to the smoking ban more easily some years later.

Meanwhile, although legislation is being drafted, Dr. Au is also concerned about the issue of law enforcement in the future.

“Even if we have a tough law but we’re enforcing it very leniently, it’ll be very unlikely that we can achieve the goal,” he said.

Some industries may argue that banning smoking in food establishments will harm the business. But the Smoking Cessation and Health Protection Association believes otherwise.

It is because local establishments which have joined the smoke-free restaurant scheme in the past two years generally said that the impact was limited, Dr. Au told the MDTimes.

The Government has last year raised the tobacco tax and is now drafting a law to further prevent and control tobacco smoking in Macau.

Dr. Au believes that the effectiveness will be maximised if the Government and the community can work together to promote the adverse effects of tobacco smoking as well as to urge smokers to quit the unhealthy habit.

The Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly, which is taking care of the deliberation work of the draft bill, did not yet schedule another meeting after June 15.

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