PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 12:00am

Statistics show why bars must stay smoke-free

There is empirical evidence to support the call by James Middleton, of Clear the Air, for severe action against bars which violate the public health legislation on smoking ('Bars that let customers smoke should lose operating licence', December 9).

Smoking in bars causes serious harm to all workers, including healthy non-smokers and those who smoke, because of the impact on their lungs and arteries.

The school of public health at the University of Hong Kong estimates that the exemption period following the 2006 Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, from January 1, 2007 to 30 June 2009, caused large-scale damage to the health of thousands of these workers.

In a representative sample of non-smoking bar workers (aged 18 to 65), we found that their scores in standard lung function tests were lower by 7 per cent, and by 12 per cent in workers older than 30 years, compared with those working in smoke-free premises. These are large differences and, if permanent, would predictably have a significant effect on their health-related quality of life and life expectancy.

The exposure of female workers who may become pregnant will cause injury to the unborn foetus with lower birth weight and impaired infant health.

Smoking in the workplace continues to be a direct cause of health inequity and there is a need for urgent and reliable enforcement.

Lai Hak-kan, post doctoral fellow, school of public health, HKU

Disadvantages of tax increase

I refer to the report ('Fewer young smokers after tobacco tax raised', December 10). I am not convinced that raising the levy would help young people.

I agree that youngsters are more price sensitive and therefore when the tax goes up and with it the price of cigarettes, they might look for other options. We have to ask ourselves what those options might be.

I am concerned that some young people will see cheap drugs as a substitute, thinking it is cool to break the rules.

In fact, I think the main reason behind reduced cigarette consumption among young people is because many of them no longer consider smoking to be trendy. While I accept they are price-sensitive, they are also trend-sensitive. They are impressionable and will follow the latest fad.

It is important for them to acquire an enviable reputation in the eyes of their peers. That is why some of them will take drugs, some of which are relatively cheap. Regulators celebrate the success of a tobacco tax hike, while in the clandestine market of illicit drugs, demand grows.

This is a problem our government should recognise and try to deal with before it gets worse.

Ronnie Cheung Long-kwan, To Kwa Wan

Festive lights cause pollution

Last month, this year's Christmas lights were switched on along the harbour. They add to those neon signs that brighten Hong Kong's night sky throughout the year.

Many Hongkongers see the festive light displays as the highlight of Christmas, but to me they are another form of light pollution.

Hong Kong's neon lights use up a vast amount of energy as they consume so much electricity.

They also destroy the dark habitats of the city's nocturnal creatures. They have to try and find new and more suitable homes.

The Christmas lights also harm the environment. Surely we could try and reduce the damage that they do by, for example, opting for environmentally-friendly bulbs.

Also, the lights at the harbour were switched on a month before Christmas and this is an additional waste of energy and creates more pollution.

Could we not have waited until say a week or two before December 25?

People need to have new levels of awareness and appreciate the potential harm that is caused by light pollution.

H. Y. Man, Wan Chai

Larger landfill not the answer

I refer to the letter by Li Kai-ching ('Bigger landfill the better option', December 8). I am strongly against extending the Tseung Kwan O landfill as it does not offer a long-term solution.

It will lead to the loss of parts of a country park and these parks are a precious asset. Once it is gone it is lost forever. It should be possible to have environmental conservation to maintain a healthy society.

We can find a long-term solution to this problem only through public education.

Incinerators are also just a short-term solution. Since people generate this waste, people should find ways to solve the problem in the long term. We have to do this for the sake of future generations.

Lily Li, Tai Kok Tsui

Recycle policy still flawed

There has been a sharp increase in the volume of waste that is generated by the people of Hong Kong.

We need to deal with this environmental problem and treat it as a priority.

Recycling systems have been in place in Hong Kong for a number of years, but they are clearly not as effective as they are in other places.

I think the root of the problem is that there are just not enough recycling bins. You see commercials and newspaper adverts urging people to recycle waste, but on some streets and in some buildings, these bins are a rare sight. If they are not conveniently located for all citizens, then it is difficult for people to reduce the amount of refuse they generate.

The administration has to provide a larger number of recycling bins and it has to do more to educate students. We have a better chance of reducing the volume of waste if young people learn at an early age to use recycling bins.

Michelle Chan Yin-ching, To Kwa Wan

Reciprocal visa deal needed

It was good to read the response of Jeffrey Kuperus ('Relax visa rules for permanent residents of HK', December 9 ) to the article announcing the revised visa regulations to allow Shenzhen's migrant workers to enter Hong Kong ('New visa rule to bring HK$5.6b windfall', December 7).

It was also nice to see Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen looking so happy with the Shenzhen official.

Now, I wonder if our government could make me as happy, plus others in the same boat. I am thinking of the holders of foreign passports who have permanent residency in Hong Kong.

A British national with a permanent identity card will have to pay HK$600 for a single entry into Shenzhen and much more for a six-month or one-year visa. Now, Mr Tang, is it possible, within the bounds of reciprocity, that people like myself will soon be allowed into Shenzhen under the same conditions as the Shenzhen migrant workers coming into Hong Kong?

I would hate to think that the real reason behind the onerous visa fees is to stop people like myself going into Shenzhen and spending money instead of in Hong Kong.

It would be interesting to get the view of Shenzhen officials on this.

Derek Roberts, Mong Kok

Government must intervene

Highly distressing as your graphic photographs accompanying the article on shark finning were, I do commend you for attempting to raise awareness of this issue among more Hong Kong residents ('Street filled with reek of drying shark fins', December 9).

The estimation that this 'world city' is a global hub which accounts for 50 to 80 per cent of such a gratuitous and brutal industry is a statistic of which no one should be proud.

If most of this horrendous trade is imported into Hong Kong, why cannot the government intervene?

Those who continue to trade in and, by consumption of the soup thereby condone this cruel slaughter of endangered creatures, are obviously incapable of restraint or reason.

Individuals can refuse to eat at restaurants which serve the soup, but it is also time for the government to follow the lead of organisations such as the University of Hong Kong and intervene to stop the trade before it is too late.

Jennifer Ford, Pok Fu Lam

Give designers helping hand

I refer to the report ('Designers seek platform', December 9).

Hong Kong has many talented young designers. They need to be given more opportunities to express themselves.

I would like to see the government offering subsidies for their fashion shows. Being in their 20s and not famous, they may not have enough money to get such an event off the ground. This limits their opportunities to showcase their works.

These shows are crucial to their artistic development as they can get feedback from the public and make the necessary improvements.

If the shows help them win recognition, this is not a waste of taxpayers' money.

Different government departments could also sponsor more design competitions.

For example the Environmental Protection Department could back a show where the designers used environmentally friendly materials. With more shows these young designers can gain experience and grow in confidence.

The tourism industry enjoys government funds, but Hong Kong's creative industry also deserves financial support.

Eliza Sun, Tsuen Wan