Full smoking ban in casinos uncertain

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Issue 1236, Page 3
Word count: 430
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Director of the Health Bureau (SS) Lei Chin Ion was reluctant to comment on whether the Government has the intention to implement a full smoking ban in casinos eventually in the future, but stressed that changes will only be made based on the assessment report to be compiled three years after the law comes into effect.

In the latest draft of the tobacco control law submitted to the Legislative Assembly on January 28, Lei said there was “a slip of the pen” in Article 38, which stated that besides bars, dance halls, sauna and massage parlours, casinos would also need to introduce a complete indoor smoking ban after a three-year transition period.

In fact the Government has proposed that, according to Article 36, casinos will have a one-year deadline to set up designated smoking areas up to a maximum of 50 percent of the total public area.

The Health Bureau chief disclosed in a press conference yesterday that, the bureau had only discovered the error on Monday, and did admit that he is the person responsible for the mistake as he “didn’t read through the draft bill carefully enough”.

He reiterated that the Government’s proposal is that the three-year transition period will only be applied to bars, dance halls and sauna and massage parlours.

“To install facilities to separate the smoking and non-smoking areas is a vast and costly project, if casinos were to prohibit smoking in all indoor areas three years later, it would be pointless to create designated smoking areas at the first place,” Lei explained, referring to the error in Article 38.

However, he did not comment directly on whether there is still a possibility for casinos to implement a full smoking ban in the future, but said the bureau will make revision suggestions two years after facilities to separate smoking and non-smoking areas in casinos become operational.

According to the new draft bill, an epidemiology report will have to be compiled three years after the law comes into effect, in order to find out the effectiveness of having smoking areas in casinos.

Lei disclosed that the Government is requesting a state key laboratory to study the situation of smoking and non-smoking areas in casinos elsewhere as well as how the separation facilities were installed.

He said the bureau hopes that the bill can be passed as soon as possible so that “a majority of indoor workplaces in Macau will be free from tobacco smoke”.

The discussion on the anti-smoking bill will be resumed in the Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly at 11am on Friday.

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