Saunas and mahjong parlours could also be excluded The government is considering exempting entertainment venues such as saunas, nightclubs and mahjong parlours from a territory-wide smoking ban that will be imposed on eateries and bars. The Legislative Council will reveal its decision on the potential exemptions at the end of this month, Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan said at yesterday's council meeting on the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2005. Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said yesterday the move would be unfair to employees in the exempt industries. 'The government should not expose them [employees] to the risk of second-hand smoke. Is it [the government] saying that because these people are working in mahjong parlours or other entertainment venues, they are an inferior race to the rest of the working population and thus deserve worse treatment?' Dr Kwok said. 'Forfeiting employees' rights to protect the rights of employers is totally unacceptable.' The draft legislation initially met with opposition from many organisations, including TVB, which complained that it would lose a lucrative source of income were it to be banned from broadcasting cigarette commercials, Dr Kwok said, adding that giving exemptions to some venues and not others would be divisive. Ms Yeung said it would be very hard to strike a balance to please all stakeholders. 'The nature of the businesses where exemptions are being considered are different from normal eateries and there should not be any conflict. For example, it would be very unlikely for customers to switch to a mahjong parlour for dinner after his favourite restaurant imposes the smoking ban,' she said. Catering sector legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan put to the council whether cigar lounges in hotels would be considered illegal enterprises under the bill. Ms Yeung said the government was also considering exemptions to such bars, as the majority had allocated areas for customers to sample their stock and staff rarely needed to enter such areas. Mr Cheung asked officials to provide a breakdown on the types of eateries that had voluntarily imposed the ban and how the move had affected their business. Legislators also expressed concerns that the bill, which also prohibits direct advertising on billboards and signs, and in newspapers and magazines, would severely cut back on vendors' advertising revenue. Ms Yeung said the government could not guarantee that vendors' advertising income would be unaffected by the changes. However, she said the administration would encourage businesses unrelated to smoking to place their advertisements at the vendors' locations. More discussions will be held on January 20 and 24. The second reading of the bill is scheduled for passage by July.