No more smoking in the bus queue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am

Smokers who want to light up at outdoor bus terminals will have to find somewhere else from today, as 131 transport hubs go smoke-free.

No-smoking zones will be extended to cover 129 open-air and two covered public transport facilities, including the terminals at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier and North Point Ferry Pier.

Smoking was banned in 48 covered public transport terminals from September last year.

Lines will be drawn on the ground and signs will be posted to inform commuters of the borders of non-smoking areas.

In the first two weeks, 'smoke-free ambassadors' will distribute pamphlets to remind commuters of the new rule, but the Tobacco Control Office said smokers who broke the ban would be prosecuted immediately without verbal reminders.

Both Kowloon Motor Bus and New World First Bus have issued memos to remind frontline employees of the new government policy.

Unions said it could be inconvenient to bus drivers, of whom 60 per cent were smokers, but they would abide by the new law.

New World First Bus Company Staff Union chairman Chung Chung-fai said drivers would probably walk to the nearest smoking zones to light up. 'I don't think the policy will make drivers quit, but it is possible that they will smoke less,' he said.

Chung Kin-wah, deputy director of the KMB branch of the Motor Transport Workers' General Union, said even before the ban made smoking off-limits, drivers might not have time to finish a cigarette, as the break between each bus trip was only three to five minutes. 'We urge drivers not to break the law. At the start it might be hard to get used to the new rules, but it is for the sake of their health.'

Violators face a fixed-penalty ticket of HK$1,500. Some 160 people were fined HK$1,500 each for smoking in one of the 48 covered transport facilities between September last year and October this year.

In the first nine months of the year, 5,800 fixed-penalty tickets for smoking were issued. Of these, 1,630 were handed out in amusement game centres, 980 in shops and shopping malls, 520 in restaurants, 440 in markets, 320 in parks, and the rest in other places such as stairways, car parks and public toilets.

Government statistics in 2008 showed that about 11.8 per cent of the population were smokers.

About 5,000 people kick the habit every year. The Tobacco Control Office says it hopes to get 1,000 more smokers to quit this year through the extension of the ban and a limit on the number of duty-free cigarettes a person can bring into the city, which went into force on August 1.