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Anti-smoking Law Passed in Hong Kong

2006-10-20

The Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Thursday approved a law entitled the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2005, which will take effect on January 1, 2007. The smoking ban will be enforced in the likes of restaurants, offices, schools, hospitals, markets, karaoke venues and bars. The Hong Kong Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said six types of "qualified establishments" including nightclubs, commercial bathhouses, massage establishments, mahjong parlors, designated mahjong rooms in clubs and certain bars must implement the ban by July 1, 2009 at the latest. They must also restrict entry to people over 18. Within any public recreational area, other than beaches, under section 107(3) of the Public Health and Municipal Service Ordinance the smoking ban will not apply to specific areas to be identified by the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services. The smoking ban will also be imposed in certain outdoor areas including those linked to hospitals and schools, public transport interchanges, escalators and the like. Smoking will also be prohibited in accommodation provided by an employer to two or more employees except in private dwellings. An example of this is accommodation provided for workers at the home of their employer. For transport interchanges the Amendment will empower the Director of Health to designate them as no smoking areas. A fixed penalty system for smoking offenses will also be introduced. The Amendment gives the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food authority to appoint inspectors to take enforcement action. The new law removes the statutory requirement for managers to display no-smoking signs. Managers of no-smoking areas will have the flexibility to decide where and how to post signs or make other arrangements to remind users of the law. The Amendment also prohibits the display of descriptive words on tobacco packets and retail containers which may have misleading implications. It also stipulates that health warnings must be displayed on these packets and containers. The period of grace given to licensed "hawkers" for display of tobacco advertising will be extended to November 1, 2009. Speaking at the resumption debate on the second reading of the Bill in the Legislative Council, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, York Chow, said Tobacco Control Office inspectors would act on reports and complaints. Strategic "black spots" would be targeted for inspection and enforcement. Chow said the office would launch a series of publicity and education activities to make the legislative requirements known. The office will also promote its tobacco cessation service. It will continue to work with the Tobacco Control Working Group to publicize the new legislative requirements within the catering industry.

(Source:Xinhua News, 2006-10-20)