The city's new ban on smoking is part of the government's plans to improve public health Hong Kong has followed the lead of European countries and several major US cities, and banned smoking in most public areas. Under the new laws, smoking will be illegal in all indoor workplaces and public venues, including restaurants and beaches, and some parks, karaoke clubs and bars. The new law took effect on New Year's Day. To ensure the law is obeyed, the Department of Health held an inter-departmental meeting with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the police, customs and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to discuss their co-ordination in enforcing the extended ban. Leung Ting-hung, deputy director of the health department said its Tobacco Control Office had doubled the number of officers, from 30 to 60, to deal with the increased workload. Over the past few months, the office has given talks to the catering and entertainment industries, and frontline LCSD staff. Venue managers should now understand their role in enforcing the new ban. Under the law, venue managers have the right to ask people smoking in no-smoking areas to show their identity cards. If smokers refuse to show ID cards they can be fined up to HK$10,000, double the maximum penalty for breaching the smoking ban. Dr Leung said he hoped the new smoking ban would bring Hong Kong one step closer to being a smoke-free city, but there was still a lot of work ahead. With the Lands Department and bus companies, the health department will also be responsible for creating no-smoking areas at more than 100 public transport interchanges and bus terminuses. The project is expected to be completed in 2008. A fixed-penalty system that is being drafted by the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau will be launched at that time. 'We hope the fresher environment can help protect people's health and induce more smokers to kick the habit in the long term,' Dr Leung said. At present, smoking is prohibited in shopping malls, cinemas, on public transport and in amusement game centres. The ban will be extended to all indoor workplaces, restaurants, karaoke lounges, escalators, public pleasure grounds, swimming pools, public beaches, stadiums, schools and universities, the Wetland Park and hospitals. Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok says tobacco control is a long-term and arduous task that requires the participation and co-operation of the whole community. The LCSD has said that there will be 255 parks with designated smoking areas. Only Central and Western, Eastern and Tsuen Wan district councils decided to impose a complete smoking ban in all parks in their jurisdiction. Wan Chai district council chairwoman Ada Wong Ying-kay said it had decided to designate smoking areas in some places because of practical reasons. 'We have 10,000 mainland tourists visiting the Golden Bauhinia Square, while some parks are too small to designate a smoking area anyway.' Chairman of Hong Kong Council of Smoking and Health Homer Tso Wei-kwok said he would be disappointed if the designated smoking areas didn't eventually disappear. He hoped those districts which imposed a complete ban would serve as a role model. These are edited versions of articles by Winnie Yeung and Lilian Goh which appeared in the South China Morning Post during the last week.