Casino workers want full smoking ban: association

Monday, January 31, 2011
Issue 1225, Page 3
Word count: 601
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Government’s newest draft law to allow casinos to set up non-smoking areas on the gaming floors is unable to pacify their front-line employees, who believe that only by implementing a full indoor smoking ban can their health be assured, said Si Tong Leong, chairman of the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association.

“The Government is trying to get away from its responsibility to protect people’s health and the [gaming] enterprises also show no corporate social responsibility,” Si told the Macau Daily Times by phone yesterday.

Currently there are some casinos in Macau where designated smoking areas can be found, Si said, but as experts and scholars from Hong Kong have previously outlined in a seminar held in Macau, such measures are “useless” to save casino workers from inhaling second-hand smoke, “no matter how good the ventilation systems are being installed”.

He reiterated that the association insists on a full smoking ban inside casinos. “This [the new bill] is just another way to cheat the casino employees.”

The Government now proposes that smoking will be prohibited in other entertainment establishments such as sauna and massage lounges after a three-year transition period, and only casinos are given the exemption.

“It’s not a fair legislation for the tens of thousands of casino employees,” Si told the MDTimes, “Why can’t casinos have the same transition period as the other entertainment venues?”

If casinos are to be exempt from a full smoking ban, he urges the Government to convince the public by revealing the research behind this decision.

“Since the first draft law was announced, the Government has never consulted the casino workers who are the biggest victims in the entire matter. I hope the officials can go to our workplaces and listen to the front-line staff’s opinions,” Si said.

He pointed out that it is a “wrong decision” to sacrifice workers’ health in exchange for record gaming revenues and rapid economic growth.

Asked whether it could be a solution if casinos allow dealers and other gaming floor staff to choose which area to perform duties, Si affirmed that it will not work out because “the companies must insert pressure onto the staff” later on.

Even casino workers who are also smokers themselves hope to work in a smoke-free environment, he added.

“I don’t see that the Government has the determination to protect residents’ health, despite its vows to create a healthy city with a high quality of living,” Si said.

‘Capable’ to afford risk

Lawmaker Au Kam San also agrees that the newest anti-smoking draft law fails to effectively protect people’s health and doesn’t comply with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“The Government seems to have made a very big compromise,” he told the MDTimes.

The shift from a full smoking ban in the first version of the bill to designated non-smoking areas in the current version shows that the Macau Government is “short-sighted”, according to the lawmaker.

“Macau’s gaming industry is the biggest in the world in terms of revenues at present, thus it should be able to afford any risks [reduced profits] which may be brought by the implementation of a full smoking ban,” he pointed out.

“To allow smoking in casinos is contradictory to the original goal of economic development that aims to improve people’s quality of life.”

In the long-term, Au said, Macau’s casinos will only be able to attract low-end customers since many high-end customers from Europe, the US or Japan are “more concerned about their health.”

Nevertheless, if the proposal can be put through, the lawmaker doubts whether smoking and non-smoking areas can be clearly divided in casinos.

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