Smokers butt out in bars, clubs, mahjong and massage joints
Ashes to ashes. Smoking inside Hong Kong's bars, nightclubs, clubs, mahjong parlours, massage establishments and bathhouses should now be just a hazy memory.
At midnight, it was the beginning of a new smoke-free era.
In Wan Chai, bars immediately began enforcing the law.
The air was clean inside Spicy Fingers, Mes Amis and the Bull and Bear pub. Ashtrays were pulled at Carnegie's bar, a manager said. 'If they still smoke inside, then they'll be the one to get a fine,' he said. 'All we can do is tell them [customers] not to smoke and take away the ashtrays.'
Offenders caught smoking in any venue where smoking is not allowed can be fined up to HK$5,000.
A smoking ban has been in place in most indoor and public areas since January 2007, although bars, nightclubs, bathhouses, mahjong rooms and massage parlours were granted an exemption until today.
All smokers interviewed early this morning took the ban in stride, but the day before people aired their mixed feelings.
Liz Tse turned 28 yesterday, and spent part of her birthday at Coyote Bar & Grill in Wan Chai with her younger sister and a friend. The ban 'sucks', she said. 'Worst birthday gift ever. I don't get the point. Smoking is legal, but smoking in a bar or restaurant is illegal. The concept is a little messed up.'
Almost all owners of late-night venues have said they will comply with the law, although some will not enforce the ban.
Back in Wan Chai yesterday, Oliver Wu, 50, was having a smoke and a beer at Joe Bananas. 'They're twins - cigarettes and beer,' said the toy manufacturer from Discovery Bay. 'They're like chopsticks - without one, what can we do?'
Hong Kong Tobacco Control Office head Ronald Lam Man-kin told the Post last week that more than 80 inspectors would work around the clock to investigate complaints from their hotline - 2961 8823. Only offenders caught smoking would receive summonses, he said.
Andrew Cameron, 44, gave up cigarettes six years ago. The property development company director was sitting at the bar at Carnegie's and called smoking 'a filthy habit'.
He made a toast to Hong Kong. 'Here's to a smoke-free future,' he said. 'No more going home smelling like a dirty old ashtray.' He raised his beer, and drank to that.