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LCQ6: Extension of no-smoking areas


Following is a question by the Hon Bernard Chan and a reply by the Secretary for the Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, in the Legislative Council today (December 18):


This Council passed a motion in January last year to urge the Government to study the necessity for and feasibility of designating more public places as no-smoking areas. Subsequently in June last year, the Administration released a consultation document on the proposed legislative amendments to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, which included proposals to designate all public indoor premises and indoor workplaces as no-smoking areas. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the specific measures taken with regard to the extension of no-smoking areas since the passing of the said motion, and their effectiveness;

(b) whether it will defer the implementation of the proposal to designate all public indoor premises as no-smoking areas; if it will, of the reasons; and

(c) whether it will implement as soon as possible the proposal to designate all indoor workplaces as no-smoking areas; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) After the passing of the Motion in respect of the designation of more public places as no-smoking areas by the LegCo in January last year, we conducted a comprehensive review of the existing Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance and issued in June 2001 a consultation document setting out a host of proposed legislative amendments to the Ordinance for public consultation. One of the main objectives of our legislative proposals is to protect members of the public, particularly non-smokers, against passive smoking in public indoor premises by expanding statutory no smoking areas to all catering venues, educational institutes and indoor workplaces.

To explain to the general public the rationale behind our proposals, we held meetings with key stakeholder groups including catering industry associations, labour unions and chambers of commerce during the consultation period. We also worked closely with other local tobacco control organisations to solicit public support of our proposals. At the conclusion of the 14-week public consultation period in late September 2001, we received a total of over 10,000 written submissions and 200,000 signatures expressing public's views on banning smoking in indoor public premises.

After analysing and collating the feedback received, we reported to the LegCo Health Services Panel on July 8, 2002 the outcome of the public consultation exercise. Views of the general public, key stakeholders and various sectors of the community on our legislative proposals were presented to the Members. In addition, findings of three public opinion surveys conducted in July 2001, November 2001 and January 2002 on the proposals were also reported.

To assess the potential economic impact of our legislative proposals on different business sectors, the Business and Services Promotion Unit of the then Commerce and Industry Bureau commissioned an independent consultant to conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) study in June 2001. A special meeting of the LegCo Health Services Panel was held on October 25, 2002 to serve as a forum to discuss the study, together with a study by KPMG commissioned by the Hong Kong Catering Industry Association on the potential impacts of the proposed smoking ban on Hong Kong hospitality premises. At the meeting, the consultants of the RIA study and the KPMG report, together with representatives of the Department of Community Medicine of the University of Hong Kong were invited to present the key findings of their respective studies, and to respond to queries on the reports.

To bring about more effective enforcement of the existing Ordinance, and to prepare for future enforcement of smoking ban requirement in the proposed new no-smoking areas, the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) was set up under the Department of Health in February 2001 to act as a designated enforcement agency to enhance and co-ordinate the enforcement efforts among parties concerned. Apart from visiting restaurants with 200 or more seats and shopping malls to educate and assist the management, staff and security guards in implementing the smoking restriction stipulated in the Ordinance, TCO has in fact visited over 90 per cent of all licensed restaurants in Hong Kong to promote smoke-free messages and encourage them to adopt a smoke-free policy. No smoking signage and education package containing useful information pamphlets and guidelines are distributed to venue management of no smoking areas. TCO is also collaborating with the Employees Retraining Board and other security companies to provide training for security guards to implement the no smoking restriction in statutory no smoking areas.

In addition, to promote the Government's proposals to expand no-smoking areas, TCO and the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) organised over the past one to two years a variety of publicity and educational programmes including signature campaigns, roving exhibitions, community level anti-smoking activities, etc. These programmes not only mobilised public support for our proposals, but also raised public awareness of the hazards of smoking and secondhand smoking, as well as the benefits of a smoke-free environment. Notwithstanding the fact that the current legislation does not provide for banning of smoking in all restaurants and indoor workplaces, TCO has been promoting to restaurant management the benefits of smoke-free restaurants. Concurrently, COSH has organised annually the "No-smoking Day in the Workplace" Campaign with a view to promoting a smoke-free working environment on a voluntary basis. Under this Campaign, local business and commercial firms were invited and encouraged to adopt a smoke-free policy in their workplaces. In the past three years of Campaign, a total of 1,026 organisations have undertaken to adopt a smoke-free policy in their workplaces.

(b)&(c) We are formulating the way forward for our proposals to expand statutory no smoking areas, having regard to the feedback received during the consultation exercise and findings of the related studies. Prior to the implementation of the proposals, TCO, together with COSH, will continue to promote, through publicity and education, a smoke-free public indoor environment in Hong Kong.

End/Wednesday, December 18, 2002


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