By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The New Macau Association has petitioned the Government to enact the anti-smoking law without more unnecessary delays and also to impose a full smoking ban in all indoor venues including casinos.
Chairman of the association Jason Chao Teng Hei, along with lawmakers Au Kam San and Ng Kuok Cheong handed a petition letter to the Government headquarters yesterday, opposing the delay in the passage of “The System for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoking” legislation.
China is one of the 168 parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which based on the Basic Law has also applied to Macau since October 2005.
However, Chao said since the Macau Government “delayed” the submission of the draft law to the Legislative Assembly and it is still uncertain when the Government can deliver the latest revised version of the bill back to the legislature, the pro-democratic association urged the Chief Executive to order related officials to complete the task as soon as possible.
According to the WHO FCTC, Chao said a smoking ban has to apply not only to all indoor or closed public venues, but also to “other public venues when appropriate”.
Therefore, he pointed out that the Health Bureau’s claim made on July 31 that the FCTC only requires 90 percent of all indoor areas to be prohibited from smoking was a “false statement” and “misleading the legislature”.
The New Macau Association does not agree with the Government’s initial proposal to allow smoking in casinos, sauna and massage parlous as well as dance halls, which Chao said has “completely overlooked the health of the workers there” and also created “unfair competition” in Macau’s business scene.
He said that Macau should be a role model for the gaming industry in the Asia region, providing its employees with the protection that they deserve.
“All indoor venues should be treated in the same way and subject to the smoking control restrictions,” Chao said.
“The gaming operators have sufficient resources to provide smoking customers with another space to temporarily leave the gaming tables and go to smoke,” he added.
In addition, Chao told reports that the Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen has failed to keep his promise made in 2009 that the Government would “significantly increase the tobacco tax when the anti-smoking bill is being discussed at the legislature”.
In the petition letter, the association also urged the Chief Executive to present a bill to revise the tobacco tax immediately, “to a level not lower than that in Hong Kong in order to suppress the growth (in numbers) of young smokers” in the territory.