PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 February, 2010, 12:00am

Law has failed to stop tobacco sales to minors

I refer to the report ('Cigarettes easier for teenagers to buy', January 21).

The Neighbourhood and Worker's Education Centre has once again concluded, as expected, that 86 per cent of retail outlets are willing to sell cigarettes indiscriminately to underage smokers.

Does anyone really believe that the employees of 7-Eleven and Circle K stores, news-stands and other outlets will put up with abuse arising from their refusal to sell cigarettes to under-age smokers? Clearly the relevant legislation has failed and it remains an uphill battle to get smokers to quit and to prevent future generations of young people from taking up this destructive habit.

Because retail outlets can flout the law it makes a mockery of the legislation.

If a retailer refuses to sell to minors they will simply find another store.

There are too many of these outlets which makes meaningful enforcement impossible. Nicotine is a poisonous and cancer-causing substance and its availability must be restricted not facilitated at every street corner as it is now.

It seems totally irrational for a poisonous substance to be as conveniently and widely available as beverages, snacks, newspapers and other daily necessities.

We must fight the aggressive importers of cigarettes by restricting their access to the market place.

Even raising the tax will have only a limited and temporary effect.

Reducing the number of cigarette-vending outlets as soon as possible can help to minimise a potentially huge health care bill for smoking-related illnesses and is in the best interests of the community.

Ang Ah-lay, Causeway Bay

Greater plans for rail lines

We would like to thank Karina Lam for her suggestion to merge the East Rail and West Rail lines ('Combine two MTR rail lines', January 13).

The planning and building of the railway infrastructure is a complex and long-term process, the full benefits of which can only be realised over a very long period of time.

The West Rail Line extension that opened last August to join the West Rail Line with the East Rail Line at Hung Hom station is only one part of a comprehensive railway development plan that will eventually see the East Rail Line extend across the harbour.

In addition, the Sha Tin to Central Link project will take the Ma On Shan Line to Hung Hom station, turning Hung Hom into a major railway hub.

Hung Hom was chosen to be a railway hub from the start because of the surrounding space available to expand and build new station facilities. Space constraints in crowded Tsim Sha Tsui did not make it possible to develop East Tsim Sha Tsui Station into an interchange between the East and West Rail lines. As to the suggestion of operating trains right through from Lo Wu/ Lok Ma Chau stations on the East Rail Line to Tuen Mun station on the West Rail Line, this is not feasible with the vastly different signalling systems that the two lines use.

In addition, West Rail Line stations are built for eight-carriage trains and cannot cater for the 12-carriage trains operating on the East Rail Line. Reducing train carriages would mean a substantial reduction in capacity.

While the interchange arrangement at Hung Hom station has been generally smooth we will continue to monitor the situation with the aim of providing the greatest convenience to passengers.

James Tsui, media relations manager, MTR Corporation

No proof that flu vaccines work

I refer to your editorial ('Informed advice needed on swine flu inoculations', January 26).

The government continues to push the inoculation of high-risk groups despite some people's fears that the recent cases of stillbirths and Guillain-Barr?syndrome are related the vaccine. Pro-vaccine experts and officials are quick to dismiss these cases, stating that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the vaccine is the direct cause.

What they do not mention is that there is also no scientific evidence to support that the H1N1 vaccine is effective at all in preventing swine flu. There have been no placebo-based, or randomised tests of these new vaccines.

The pro-vaccine camp would argue that the vaccine needs no such test since it works in the same way as the seasonal vaccine, which is known to be effective.

The truth of the matter is that it is not effective. As I have said before ('Valid concerns over flu vaccine remain unanswered by officials', December 30) the Cochrane Collaboration's systematic review of 51 studies covering 260,000 children showed that flu vaccines are not effective.

Another systematic review of 48 studies on the effectiveness of vaccines on adults (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;2: CD001269) also showed that vaccines are not effective in reducing flu-like illnesses.

Your editorial talks about what is required before deciding whether to have the inoculation ('Informed advice needed on swine flu inoculations', January 26).

The Cochrane's results can serve such a purpose.

Sean Niem, Mid-Levels

New buses a welcome move

I am pleased to see that Kowloon Motor Bus and New World First Bus will introduce new two-axle double-deckers ('Off-peak buses smaller, greener', January 27).

As the fuel consumption of a two-axle vehicle is less than a three-axle bus, the emission levels of the two-axle model will be comparatively lower, thus contributing to a cleaner environment. Also the new bus really has a stylish appearance.

I hope that the two operators' new double-deckers will be put into service as soon as possible.

Euro V two-axle eco-friendly buses are beneficial to the environment because they produce lower emissions, thus reducing pollution.

Charlie Chan Wing-tai, Sha Tin

Stop insulting our intelligence

On Tuesday evening while listening to a news programme on RTHK Radio 3, I heard Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen say that the Hong Kong public did not understand the issue of the five lawmakers resigning.

Was he speaking for himself, because he certainly wasn't speaking for me?

Why does he assume that I and other people who live and work in this city lack intelligence and cannot understand political issues? I am sick of being told by him and the others in his government that I am unable to understand any issue whether it be simple or complicated.

My late father used to describe himself with a commonly known phrase, 'doesn't suffer fools gladly'. Well I don't mind fools so much but what I hate is people who think I am one.

So please stop insulting me and the others who live in Hong Kong. We are intellectual and sophisticated in our thinking and fed up with you telling us we aren't.

Sarah Hung, Mid-Levels

Don't call Beijing's bluff

When someone like me, a small fry, warned that the pan-democrats were plotting to 'stir up such unrest that a crackdown becomes necessary' ('Targeting HK's gullible citizens', November 26), it was ignored.

Some could not wait to see it happen anyway.

But when somebody of Lau Nai-keung's calibre issues a stern warning ('Referendum a step too far', January 22), it evokes a response.

However, correspondents such as Rebecca Tomasis should beware when it comes to calling Beijing's bluff ('Comments only rile further', January 28).

As things stand, even after the rabble-rousing rally held by the pan-democrats on Wednesday evening, they are closer to creating a situation from which no regime could back down.

I refer to Articles 14 and 18 of the Basic Law.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Teach children Web dangers

A computer has become an essential item for everyone including children.

There is a lot of information on the internet, but not all of it is good and young people are too immature to be able to recognise this, as is often the case when they are logged on to online forums.

They may read comments by other people using these forums which could be psychologically harmful to young minds.

We should aim to have meaningful and useful information on the internet. It is also important to teach young people to use it in a responsible manner, so that they are not exposed to material that could prove damaging.

Kwan Ho-yin, Kwai Chung

Happiness a factor in results

Teenagers and children in Hong Kong lead stressful lives.

This is partly caused by the education system in Hong Kong. Children's school years should be a straightforward and enjoyable experience.

If they are happy in their studies they stand a better chance of getting good results. But this is not what happens in Hong Kong.

The workload of pupils is too heavy especially when it comes to homework.

Some students, if they get bad results, become disillusioned and feel that studying is futile.

Parents, schools and officials must be aware of the problems that can arise and be willing to help young people when they experience difficulties in school.

Nothing will be achieved by punishing them as this will just hurt their self-esteem.

Toyota Li, Tsuen Wan