Smoking could be banned in commercial vehicles, bus stops and within 10 metres of MTR entrances under bold proposals put forward by the Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) to John Lee’s new administration, the chairman of COSH, Henry Tong Sau-chai, said today.
Speaking on the sidelines of a launch event for a new public anti-smoking campaign, Tong said COSH had presented a “Tobacco Endgame” plan to Chief Executive-elect John Lee’s office and was hopeful of a meeting with Lee before 1 July to advocate for the plan.
The Endgame advocacy prioritises a ban on smoking in commercial vehicles and construction sites, and proposes expanding legal non-smoking areas to include bus stops, MTR entrance areas and areas near other sensitive buildings such as schools and elderly care homes.
“The number of drivers smoking in commercial vehicle has been a concern of ours for some time and we have been urging to ban cigarette smoking inside commercial vehicles,” says Tong.
He also points to taxis as an area for improvement. “I have been hearing complaints that there have been secondhand or third-hand smoke inside taxis, because when no passenger in the taxi sometimes drivers smoke, and third-hand smoke left over is harmful to the passengers.”
But Tong warns that previous governments have not invested enough in tobacco control, pointing out that the government today collects around $7.7 billion in tobacco tax each year, but only spends around $250 million on tobacco control programmes.
“There’s a big difference in what the government collects in tobacco tax and how much they spend on helping people quit smoking,” he said.
As such, COSH is only able to target one sector at a time: it runs annual thematic campaigns targeting groups such as security guards, transport workers, restaurant staff and construction workers.
“We are advocating there should be multiple new policies to encourage people to quit smoking and stop the harm caused by smoking,” he said.
Tong points to Macau as a positive example of expanding legal non-smoking areas. “In Macau in 2018, they already banned smoking withing 10 metres of the area of all their bus stops, which is a good policy for the people.”
Tong says he is hopeful Lee’s government will take notice of the plan, citing the recent successful ban of alternative nicotine products as a cause for optimism.
The COSH event today, hosted by RTHK, launched a sports-based anti-tobacco programme with singer Jay Fung and Hong Kong’s Director of Health Ronald Lam, along with COSH’s Tong and other guests, competing on spin bikes to promote the idea of “Smoke-free Sportswear Day” for 31 May, World No Tobacco Day.