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Experts slam smoking ban exemptions

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The three-year exemption period established by the new tobacco control law is too long and the Government should change its attitude towards the fight against tobacco use, experts from Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan told the Macau Daily Times yesterday.
“We urge the Government to introduce a new law as soon as possible, because this is the best and only way to protect all the people, no matter in which area or industry or business,” said Johnny Au, director general of the local Smoking Abstention and Good Health Association.
“Smoke-free is a very basic protection of the human rights. In mainland China or Hong Kong, the laws are very smooth and don’t affect their businesses,” he added.
According to Au, Macau has to recognise the importance of a smoke-free environment. Still, he stressed that the society is not making noise on the three-year adjustment period: “I think three years is the ceiling and, after that, our association hopes that there will be 100 percent engaging.”
Chairman of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, Lisa Lau Man-man, believes that to set up an entire area of smoke-free means “much fairer competition” for businesses. Commenting on the Macau proposed three-year period, she said that “certainly businesses want to have a much longer time to adjust, but a too long period is not favourable.”
Chief executive officer of the John Tung Foundation from Taiwan, Sea-Wain Yau, agrees with Lau’s point of view. He thinks that three years is a “little bit too long”, considering that in Hong Kong it was one year and in Taiwan two and a half for some restaurants.
“It won’t take three years to set up several smoking rooms, so I think three years is a little bit too long. […] the major problem is that during this grace period people tend to forget that there is a new law coming on,” he said.
The anti-tobacco promotion is also an issue in Macau, the experts’ pointed out. Sea-Wain Yau said that it seems the situation of smoking in Macau is worse than in Taiwan or Hong Kong, thus the city still has a long way to go.
Lau stressed that “Macau has to do a lot more promotion to make the public aware” of the harm of second hand smoke.
On the other hand, Au from the Macau concern group said that they have no worries about that. Citing the last census, he emphasised that 83 percent of the local population don’t smoke. Still, he recalled: “We need to educate them  [smokers] and change their minds on the benefits of non-smoking.”
The experts were talking on the sidelines of the 4th Cross-strait Conference on Tobacco Control, running until Friday at the Fisherman’s Wharf.
Presently, the Government is working on a second draft of the System for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoking, after some demands from the lawmakers. One of the changes is that smoking will be allowed in casinos, bars, terraces or business open areas, massage lounges and dance halls for a three-year period.

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