Profits survive smoking ban

THERE is no doubt that it is necessary to protect non-smokers from passive smoking by restricting smoking behaviour in public places. Since the 1980s there's been increasing demand to set aside non-smoking areas in restaurants.

Although an opinion survey in 1988 indicated that 84 per cent of the public support the idea of setting half of restaurant seats aside for non-smoking areas, many restaurant owners, especially those owners of Chinese restaurants, refused to support the idea, claiming that it would affect their business.

Many of them even rejected the compromise proposal from the Hongkong Council on Smoking and Health (requiring restaurants to display a sign stating whether they have a no-smoking area instead of a fixed percentage of non-smoking seats).

It is interesting to know that seven major Chinese restaurants in Sydney have voluntarily set aside non-smoking areas. They have not yet lost any business and it has not been difficult to implement the policy.

Sydney counterparts have the courage to adopt the non-smoking policy in response to customers' demand, why don't the Hongkong restaurants do the same? DR CHRISTOPHER LEUNG Sydney, Australia