Onslaught on smokers fails to tackle air pollution problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am

A Civic Exchange poll has found that one in four Hong Kong people wants to leave the city because of our deteriorating air quality. I learned of this survey on the same day as I crossed the harbour on the Star Ferry through the choking smog, euphemistically termed haze by the Observatory.

I arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui to see first-hand our government's latest laughable attempt to convince an increasingly sceptical public that it is doing something to clear the air and protect our health - white lines marking out boxes on the pavement, inside which smoking is prohibited.

No doubt our environment minister, Edward Yau Tang-wah, will approve of these new restrictions. It was he, after all, who advised us all to stop smoking when our internationally discredited air pollution index topped 400 earlier this year.

The idling-engine legislation will be so emasculated as to be practically useless, and yet those standing in line waiting for a bus cannot smoke a cigarette (I am a non-smoker). This onslaught on smokers hits the poor, the elderly and the voiceless, of course, and not the more affluent. They can continue to smoke in their polluting cars, run air-conditioners in summer and heaters in winter, or take international flights from Chek Lap Kok, all of which contribute significantly more to Hong Kong's carbon footprint and to the city's worsening air quality. It is surely time to divert some of the funding from the increasingly hysterical anti-smoking lobby to our real air pollution problems.

The lobby's quest to commandeer and control Hong Kong's open spaces appears a waste of money when viewed beside the real and pressing health issue we all face, namely having to breathe in Hong Kong's worsening air.

This latest anti-smoking legislation appears to be an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Hong Kong public, to create a smokescreen in an effort to mask the government's continuing failure to tackle the real problem of our filthy air.

J. R. Henderson, Sai Kung