PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am

Should the full smoking ban be delayed?

Lam Kwok-tung's claim (Talkback, December 13) that the University of Hong Kong's study of second-hand smoke lacks validity is classic tobacco-industry-style misinformation.

Our full report, to be published in a peer-reviewed international scientific journal, does demonstrate clear evidence for a causal relationship between workplace air quality and respiratory health ('Stick by full smoke ban, urge academics', December 10).

Higher levels of particulates, wherever they occurred, were associated with greater reductions in lung function.

Your correspondent's implausible explanation for this is that the most vulnerable workers, with previous respiratory problems, somehow selectively occupied jobs in the most polluted workplaces during the two years since the smoking ban legislation.

His shroud waving is baseless. For example, why does he claim that 'thousands are no longer employed' given that government statistics since 2006 show the catering business has increased by 30 per cent and bars were exempted from the ban?

The only 'competing interest' in this issue is the tobacco industry and a small section of the hospitality trade which says it cannot make a profit in Hong Kong without serving food and drink in filthy air.

Independent economic analyses in other jurisdictions show no negative impact of smoke-free policies, except on tobacco sales.

Despite Mr Lam's denial, your readers can be sure that smoke-free legislation has led to dramatic improvements in the health of bar workers and the general population, measured as inflammation, respiratory symptoms, lung function or hospital admissions for heart disease. That includes the Scottish workers study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and reports from New York, Montana, Ohio, Colorado, and two from Italy.

Mr Lam accuses us of prejudice, but our only bias is the identification of serious occupational health risks. He admits that Hong Kong's outdoor pollution is a major problem, but wants to create workplace contamination four times this level.

This cynical trade-off does not 'pale into insignificance', and the increased risks of heart attack, stroke and cancer will be unacceptable to anyone who is properly informed.

The suggestion that our catering industry is either willing or able to advise on these hazards is ludicrous.

Anthony J. Hedley, school of public health, University of Hong Kong

There has been a great deal of discussion about the issue of the smoking ban in Hong Kong. I think we have no option but to bring in the full smoking ban, not just because it is bad for your health, but because of the effect it has on the environment.

Just look at the survey which showed that the lung function of non-smoking workers in smoke-free restaurants was much more efficient than those in exempted bars ('Stick by full smoking ban, urge academics', December 10).

It makes no sense that people continue to light up, knowing the effect on their lungs.

The full ban is opposed by nightclubs, bars and mahjong parlours which have enjoyed an exemption. They say the ban would be catastrophic, especially given the state of the economy.

However, given that their workers' health is at risk, their objections are not reasonable.

These bar owners have a responsibility to help the environment and ensure their staff are not put at risk.

Jason Chu Hung-shing, Lai Chi Kok

What changes do you want to see at ATV?

I would like to see ATV screening more of the latest soap operas from countries such as Japan, the United States and Korea.

Their shows often have good storylines and strong casts and are very popular in Hong Kong.

I also would like to see more Hong Kong artists being invited to perform. So often I see performers on ATV shows and I do not know who they are, so I switch channels.

ATV should show concerts featuring local singers or recently released films at the weekend, when families watch television together.

The concerts and movies ATV screens tend to be a bit old.

Only a few viewers will be interested in these films.

When it comes to Hong Kong singers, I would suggest the likes of Eason Chan Yick-shun and Joey Yung Cho-yee could be shown by ATV.

The channel could also consider having reality shows.

It could have competitions involving citizens.

If I saw people on a reality show I knew, I would find it compelling and would have to keep watching. Just look at how successful reality shows have been in the US. They are very popular in Hong Kong.

When people start discussing a show, it is proof that it has succeeded.

Terence Chung, Sheung Shui

What do you think of the drug-abuse proposals?

There has been much discussion about drug abuse in Hong Kong.

Some people argue that compulsory drug tests should be carried out in schools, but I do not support this proposal.

Drug taking is on the increase among young people.

Compulsory tests of students suspected of taking illicit drugs may reduce the use and sale of drugs in schools, but it is a temporary solution. We have to tackle the root of the problem.

Mandatory tests can identify users, but they are an invasion of students' privacy and may not even be effective. There is always a danger under such a scheme that some police officers and teachers might overstep the mark.

I have doubts about how effective it would be. It is easy for young people to get drugs in Shenzhen and they can take drugs outside of school hours.

Compulsory testing might damage the relationship between teachers and students, and even between parents and children.

Performance could suffer as a consequence.

It would be best for the government to devote more resources to educating students about the harmful effects of drugs.

It should also co-operate with the mainland authorities to curb drug use by Hong Kong students on the mainland.

Annabelle Chau, Tin Shui Wai