Press Release
19 January 2006

Call for Universal Ban of Smoking in Indoor Workplaces and Public Places

The Hong Kong Medical Association, in conjunction with medical experts from the Council on Smoking and Health, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, make a strong call for a universal ban of smoking in indoor workplaces and public places. There should not be any exemptions for any type of establishments, regardless of their size and nature of business.

Smoking is a major cause of fatal diseases. Over 5,500 persons died of diseases induced by smoking every year in Hong Kong; that means 15 persons were killed by tobacco everyday. Secondhand smoke also kills 1,324 every year in Hong Kong. Many potentially toxic gases and carcinogenic substances are present in higher concentrations in side-stream smoke than in mainstream smoke. Just 30 minutes exposure is enough to reduce coronary blood flow. Yet many employees are subjected to heavy secondhand smoke in workplaces, like restaurants, bars and karaokes, without a choice.

It is heartbreaking to see the endless agony suffered by patients of lung cancer, chronic obstructive airway disease, heart disease and other illnesses related to inhalation of cigarette smoke as well as the mental torture endured by their relatives. Being the representative body of all registered medical practitioners in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Medical Association fully supports the SMOKING (PUBLIC HEALTH) (AMENDMENT) BILL 2005, which aims to discourage smoking and protect the public from the harmful effects of passive smoking by:

The Hong Kong Medical Association considers that nothing short of a comprehensive ban of smoking in in-door public places will work. Separate smoking rooms are simply not viable alternatives as they are ineffective and difficult to implement. Licensing such smoking rooms is like licensing gas chambers. No ventilation can eliminate the toxic gases and particles of secondhand smoke. Partial exemption of certain trades opens many unnecessary loopholes. It is also inequitable, as the most vulnerable employees will continue to be subjected to a deadly, and yet totally avoidable hazards in their workplaces.

Tobacco is addictive, so is tobacco-related revenue. However, evidence from different parts of the world show that smoke-free legislation is not bad for business. A comprehensive ban of smoking in indoor public places will be popular, simple, and easy to enforce. It will lead to a dramatic improvement in public health, especially in an already overcrowded, and often polluted, urban environment. Our children, pregnant mothers, many employees, and patients with heart and lung diseases will be able to breathe in cleaner air. Smokers will also benefit, because many of them will be encouraged to quit.

All the proposed measures have been put forward for public consultation ever since 2001. Each day of delay will cause additional suffering and deaths among smokers and non-smokers alike and will result in huge economic loss to the Government and tax payers. In order to safeguard the HEALTH of our population, we appeal to all our honorable legislators to ACT DECISIVELY NOW.

Dr. CHOI Kin President, The Hong Kong Medical Association
Prof. LAM Tai Hing Professor of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong
Dr. Homer TSO Chairman, Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health
Prof. WONG Tze Wai Professor of Community Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Dr. the Hon. KWOK Ka Ki Legislative Councillor (Medical)
Dr. the Hon Joseph LEE Legislative Councillor (Health Services)
Dr. LEUNG Chi Chiu Specialist in Respiratory Medicine
Council Member, The Hong Kong Medical Association
Co-Convener, Task Force of Health Care Professionals on Tobacco Control, HKMA
Dr. SHIH Tai Cho Vice-President, The Hong Kong Medical Association
Co-Convener, Task Force of Health Care Professionals on Tobacco Control, HKMA


Notes to editors :
The Hong Kong Medical Association, founded in 1920, aims to bring together Hong Kong's government, institutional, university and private medical practitioners for an effective exchange of views and co-ordination of efforts. The foremost objective of the Association is to safeguard and promote public health. The Association speaks collectively for its members and aims to keep its members abreast of medical ethics, issues and advances around the world. In fulfilling these goals, the association hopes to better serve the people of Hong Kong.

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