Smoking ban in bars will only cut much-needed spending

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am

I write to express my frustration at the smoking ban that is now in force in all bars in Hong Kong.

I know we are not the first nor last place that will impose this ban. I do not have the statistics to prove it, but I would not be surprised if, on average, more people are injured or killed in Hong Kong as a result of drink-driving than second-hand smoking. Does that mean we'll ban all drinking in bars too?

I am a smoker and I know the risks involved. However, we live in a democracy (or a kind of democracy), where we can choose what to do as long as it does not affect or impact others around us.

I am well aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke but I want to smoke when I go out to a bar. Why not give an option to bars to be smoking establishments. Perhaps a few of these bars could be designated in different parts of the city and they could pay a fee. Bar owners would be glad to pay it, just to get back their customers.

If you speak to bar owners, they reckon that their business will drop by 50 per cent. That is not helping a sector that has so many employees, especially when we are in the middle of a recession.

The government could use the fee revenue for anti-smoking campaigns targeting young people. It is not regular smokers like me that people should worry about - we are already hooked - but the teenagers who should not even be in bars.

There are more than 1,000 bars in Hong Kong, so [under my proposed scheme] people would be spoiled for choice. And if they did not want to be subjected to second-hand smoke they could avoid the bars where smoking was allowed. As for employees, in just about every bar I frequent the bar staff usually smoke. Workers who don't could transfer to a non-smoking bar. This would be a simple process given that a number of companies run most of the bars in Hong Kong's main entertainment districts.

I will choose to light up at home, away from the anti-smoking vigilantes. This is a shame, because when I go out I spend at least HK$1,000 in a bar, maybe another HK$500 on food and HK$50 on taxis. The only impact this ban will have is to cut spending in our local economy when it is needed most.

James Griffiths, Kennedy Town