Officials' nanny state outlook is creating a society of small minds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2011, 12:00am

I refer to the quote from Professor Lam Tai-hing, director of the school of public health at the University of Hong Kong, quoted in your headline, regarding the 41.5 per cent rise in tobacco duty ('Critics of increased tobacco tax, 'enemies of public health'', February 25).

One could equally accuse him and his ilk of being enemies of liberty and personal choice. Why should smoking be singled out? Why not impose duties on fast food and other foods and drinks with high sugar content, to counter the growing incidence of obesity and diabetes which are imposing an increasing burden on our health services?

Are purveyors of these foods also 'enemies of public health'?

For many in the working population of Hong Kong, smoking is an occasional pleasure, taken in full knowledge of the risks. The poor will be driven to smuggled cigarettes, while the smoking of legal cigarettes will be a reserve of the rich. After years of relentless campaigns warning of the health effects of smoking (thank you, we know what they are), citizens still exercise their right to choose to smoke.

In the bus terminus at Stanley, which is open to the sky, there is a white line drawn on the pavement indicating 'No smoking beyond this point'.

I suppose that's because the occasional cigarette will pose an unacceptable risk to those who are breathing the pure fumes of diesel exhaust.

White lines on pavements; railings in unnecessary locations; admonitions by the MTR Corp and Airport Authority to take care when stepping on or off escalators, to stand still and hold the handrail; different speed limits every few hundred metres because drivers cannot be trusted to adjust their speed to road conditions - all of these are signs that the authorities think we are stupid.

Are the famously self-reliant citizens of Hong Kong content to become like bleating sheep?

The nanny state is creating a society of small minds.

Markus Shaw, Central