PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am

Should the smoking ban be delayed?

P. A. Crush (Talkback, May 22) referring to my letter (Talkback, May 20) states 'there is no scientific proof' of my claim 'that 3,485 people will have died in Hong Kong during the past 30-month exemption of new smoking controls in bars and other licensed entertainment premises'.

The scientific data is factually based on expert reports in 1999 and 2005 citing 1,324 passive smoking annual deaths. Indeed, the data need updating.

Since Hong Kong people were granted exemptions in qualifying bars and nightclubs for 30 months from January 2007 they managed to consume 38.2 million more cigarettes per month (a total of 458.48 million cigarettes more in 2008) than in pre-ban 2006.

Accordingly, the passive smoking death rates are now certainly higher than before the 1,324 annual figure.

The referenced scientific report is 'Mortality associated with passive smoking in Hong Kong' (British Medical Journal) authored by eminent professors from the University of Hong Kong's department of community medicine and Nuffield department of clinical medicine, at Oxford University, England.

The other report is 'Cost of tobacco-related diseases, including passive smoking, in Hong Kong', again by HKU's department of community medicine and the Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine, at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

The data revealed in 1998 that the annual value of direct Hong Kong medical costs, long-term care and productivity loss was US$532 million for active smoking and US$156 million for passive smoking; passive smoking accounted for 23 per cent of the total costs. Adding the value of attributable lives lost brought the annual cost to US$9.4 billion, and 1,324 deaths were attributable to passive smoking. Of the passive smoking-attributable deaths, 239 were from lung cancer, 303 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 309 from ischemic heart disease and 473 from stroke. This amounts to 6,920 tobacco-related deaths out of a total of 32,847 deaths in a population of 6.5 million people in 1998.

As seen from the above expert data, your correspondent misguidedly further states 'private cars do far more proven harm to our environment and health than any cigarette smoker'. The main polluters of the atmosphere in Hong Kong are the coal-burning power companies, diesel emissions and emissions from ships that last year resulted in 1,155 premature deaths (Hedley Index).

James Middleton, chairman, anti- tobacco committee, Clear the Air

Should rules on open space be more flexible?

I refer to the report ('Alfresco dining in public spaces across Central and Western off the menu from July', May 21).

I think it is an excellent idea to have places where people can meet and have a meal in the open. Such venues exist in Europe and other parts of the world and have proved to be very popular. They should be allowed in Hong Kong. Indeed, there should be more of them.

Western and Central District Council will be taking a backward step if it carries out its decision to ban the current operators from having tables outside. It is not in the public interest to have such a ban on outside dining. Regarding the Times Square Piazza, I think it is a real pity that it has not been developed into an alfresco venue. Instead it has become a smokers' haven and, therefore, a hell for non-smokers.

Every time I pass through this open space I am met with a throng of smokers and the pollution that accompanies them. Can someone impose the non-smoking ban in places like public parks, bars and restaurants? It would be nice if the open space at Times Square was declared smoke-free.

Robert Thio, Causeway Bay

I am absolutely amazed at the lack of intelligence being demonstrated by Central and Western District Council in the case of alfresco dining. It approved these alfresco areas many years ago, so why is it now trying to pass the buck to another government agency? These outside environments are a lovely place to dine or simply have a drink and, because of a lack of common sense and government infighting, they will soon disappear. This situation shows a lack of maturity.

Andrew Ford, Repulse Bay

What can be done to promote dragon boat racing?

Dragon boat racing is a traditional sport and can promote Chinese culture to other countries.

The dragon boat regatta during the Tuen Ng festival will attract competitors from all over the world and many tourists will also come to watch the event. They will see our world-class scenery and get a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. It not only boosts Hong Kong's image, but economically it helps our shops. I think an effective way of promoting dragon boat racing is to introduce it in our secondary schools. It would be good for young people, because it demands team spirit and perseverance.

I also think it would be a good idea to hold a dragon boat design competition.

People can design a traditional dragon boat or come up with a fashion concept. This would help participants become more aware of this regatta's importance.

Nicole Chan, Tsuen Wan