PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2008, 12:00am

At what age is it okay to leave children home alone?

Recently there have been news reports on a spate of home-alone cases and it has made me more aware that there is a problem.

However, I do not think the answers to the problem are that straightforward.

In fact, each child develops at his or her own rate. Some of them are responsible, mature and independent enough to be left alone at the age of 12. By contrast, there are some teenagers who are over-dependent on their parents.

Before making any reasoned decisions on this matter, parents should consider how mature is the child. Has the child done something to prove they are able to take care of themselves? They should test their children's level of maturity in various ways.

Also they need to make sure their children know who to contact if there is an emergency. They must teach them simple skills, so they are able to prepare food themselves.

Through these various methods, parents and children can have a deep understanding of each other. These home-alone cases serve as a reminder to parents that their children are precious and must be properly cared for.

Instead of, say, going away to Macau to gamble at casinos, they should work hard to look after their children properly and be responsible and vigilant parents.

Chow Mei-yi, Kwun Tong

What do you think of the tunnel toll rise?

I am utterly appalled that the tunnel that is least used, the Western Harbour Tunnel, is now going to be the most expensive one.

Shouldn't the most congested crossing, that is, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, have its toll fees increased as this will surely ease the congestion on both sides of the tunnel?

Just because the western tunnel is not widely used does not justify an increase.

Would a decrease in charges not facilitate an increase in use?

Or try a pilot scheme of reducing the fees at the western tunnel during peak hours to test the effect on motorist usage. Following this an informed decision can then be made.

Audra Rodrigues, Ho Man Tin

On other matters ...

The government is taking steps to encourage better nutrition labelling of consumer food products.

This initiative is visible through recent work promoted by the Centre for Food Safety and the Food and Health Bureau.

If food manufacturers choose to put nutrition labels on their products, 'the information presented must be accurate and cannot be misleading'.

In this light, I would like to ask Wellcome supermarket to explain the significant variation of ingredient levels among their First Choice canned tuna range. For instance, the sodium content per 100g of 'Tuna in spring water', 'Tuna in vegetable oil' and 'Tuna in brine' is 531mg, 378mg and 319mg respectively.

It is reasonable to believe that there would be more salt content in tuna in brine rather than in spring water and vegetable oil, but apparently this is not the case. There is 66 per cent more salt in tuna in spring water than in the same amount of tuna in brine.

There are other puzzling ingredient levels with the canned tuna range; for example with protein, cholesterol, carbohydrate and calcium content. Can Wellcome please comment, through these columns, and explain these peculiar variations and how they derive their nutrition information?

Meanwhile, the message promoted by the Centre for Food Safety's TV advertisement on food labelling is not particularly smart and is in poor taste.

The advertisement tells consumers not to bother trying to detect various flavours, smells and ingredients themselves, but rather to put their trust in reading manufacturers' food labels.

While accurate food labels can help, particularly with preventing unwanted allergic reactions, I would like to advocate that people take the time to properly taste food and develop all their senses to appreciate what they eat and drink.

Too often I find myself wondering whether people's palates and noses can really detect flavours, smells and ingredients, or whether they are just scoffing large portions of salty but otherwise bland Chinese food, or buying expensive meals and drinks just for show.

Will Lai, Western

Has no one yet raised the possibility of using brown paper bags to replace the supermarket plastic bags?

I am in total agreement that we should all try to cut down on plastic waste. However, imposing a tax or environmental charge on supermarket plastic bags is punitive and negative. Shopping could well be spontaneous, and the supermarket shopper faces considerable inconvenience if not downright impracticality if carrier bags are not provided with the purchase.

Brown paper bags are biodegradable and thus compatible with environmental friendliness. The paper used should be recycled.

I suggest that shops continue giving out bags for purchases made, but switch from environmentally-unfriendly plastic bags to environmentally-friendly paper bags. Also, there can be incentive payments to people not requiring carrier bags - for example, shops could give a small amount, say 20 cents, for each bag saved. This in practice can go a considerable way towards saving the environment. Contrast that to the proposed 50-cent charge for each plastic bag.

The supermarkets will be saving the expense of purchasing plastic bags, but how will these savings be redistributed to the consumers? Many shoppers may choose not to purchase a few small items on a whim - the disproportionate cost of plastic bags - reducing business for the shops - adversely affecting both consumers and retailers.

W. Y. Tang, Repulse Bay

Angel Lau writes (Talkback, January 12) that non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke in our streets and so continue to face a health risk. Does she really believe that the presence of smokers on the street is seriously affecting the already filthy air that we all, smokers and non-smokers alike, have to breathe on our streets on a daily basis?

Why doesn't she direct her wrath against the power companies who play a much more significant part in polluting our air? Banning smoking in the streets will make scarcely a jot of difference to Hong Kong's air.

The argument that it will, serves only as a convenient smokescreen to the real air pollution problems that we face.

I write as a non-smoker.

J. R. Henderson, Sai Kung