With a smoking ban taking effect today, scaremongers say it will be an economic disaster, but many bar and restaurant owners are upbeat about the effect of the legislation on their businesses Restaurants and pubs generally welcomed the smoking ban that kicked in at midnight, with owners dismissing concerns that their businesses would suffer. Some even predicted turnover would improve. Anti-smoking posters handed out by the government could be seen inside and outside many restaurants in Central and Causeway Bay yesterday. Cheung Heung-sin, manager of the Tsui Wah Restaurant in Central, said waiters had been giving smokers early reminders about the law when serving them with ashtrays. 'In fact, we have seen far fewer smokers in our place in recent months,' Ms Cheung said. 'I think many people have learned to adapt to the law automatically since it was passed.' Although cha chang teng - small eateries - are often regarded as favourite places for smokers, Ms Cheung thought there might be more customers with the new law in place. 'People will stay for a shorter time and leave faster without smoking, and non-smokers won't need to wait for seats in non-smoking areas, both of which will help us receive more customers.' She admitted, however, it might be different at tea time 'when many smokers like to have a drink while enjoying a cigarette or two at our place'. Her views were echoed by the managing director of Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments, Lam Ming-wah, who said he had no fears about business at the group's 10 dining places and pubs subject to the ban suffering as a result. 'I think people will be willing to bring more friends and family members to a smoke-free restaurant without worries about any health hazard,' he said. However, legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan took a different view. 'If any restaurant sees better business, it has nothing to do with the anti-smoking ban but is due to the boosting of the entire economy,' he said. 'Different areas and establishments may have different situations, but there is no doubt that the smoking ban will influence those places most favoured by smokers.' Anti-smoking officers will make surprise checks at parks and premises to stop and prosecute those who choose to defy the ban. The Tobacco Control Office has warned that it will take a tough line and prosecute offenders without prior verbal warning. Offenders are subject to a maximum penalty of HK$5,000. The Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill was passed last October amid concerns and opposition by the hospitality industry, which feared the move could drive away customers. From today, smoking is not allowed in all indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars, beaches, stadiums, parks and playgrounds. But six types of establishments, including bars, nightclubs and mahjong parlours, have been allowed to apply for an exemption to the ban until 2009. According to the Department of Health, 990 applications had been received by yesterday, with 795 approved. Operators who knowingly make false declarations to be granted the exemption are liable to a maximum penalty of two years' jail and a fine.