Smokers in call for segregation

MOST smokers in Hongkong want legislation requiring restaurants to set up non-smoking areas, according to survey results released yesterday.

The survey, released on the eve of a new anti-smoking television campaign, found that 67 per cent of respondents who smoked daily agreed that restaurants should be required to set aside non-smoking tables.

The Hongkong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), which commissioned the survey of 1,222 people in February, welcomed the results and said it now saw no reason why legislation should not be enacted.

The council's executive director, Cheung Che-kwok, said he believed smokers felt more comfortable in separate smoking areas because there was no chance of offending non-smokers.

He said separate areas were not so much an anti-smoking measure, as a measure to control smoking.

The survey, carried out by the University of Hongkong's social science research centre, found an even bigger majority, 71 per cent, of daily smokers wanted half of all restaurant tables labelled as no-smoking areas.

Overall, 86 per cent of respondents favoured legislation while 78 per cent said restaurants should voluntarily set aside half their tables as non-smoking.

The results coincide with a British survey published this month in the Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine which revealed that half of the 5,000 respondents wanted a total ban on smoking in restaurants, and 45 per cent wanted separate eating areas.

The council also announced yesterday that it and the Hongkong Hotels Association would work together to encourage hotels to set aside more non-smoking areas in their restaurants.

Association executive director Manuel Woo said that though some hotels had already set aside non-smoking areas in their restaurants and cafes, all 80 association members would be issued with guidelines pointing out passive smoking dangers.

But the council and Mr Woo differed over the question of a total smoking ban in Hongkong restaurants. Mr Woo, himself a former smoker, said self-regulation was preferable to a ban.

The survey was in response to a government consultative paper issued in August last year which proposed that restaurants should be required to display a sign stating whether they have a no-smoking area.

The Government is likely to announce its policy on anti-smoking measures before the end of the year.

The television campaign comprises a new announcement of public interest titled ''The Thin Line'', which will be aired on the Chinese and English channels from Sunday.

It shows all the customers getting up and leaving a restaurant when a man lights a cigarette.

COSH says the smoke that escapes into the atmosphere when a person smokes contains higher concentrations of poisonous chemicals and gases.

COSH has devised some guidelines for setting up smoke-free areas: Have clear but polite signs telling customers which are the smoking and smoke-free tables.

Remove ashtrays from smoke-free tables and put no-smoking signs on these tables.

Each customer should be asked on their choice of the two areas before being served.