A minibus driver smokes in his bus in Kowloon Tong this week: the government says secondhand and third-hand smoke is now a major concern

Smoking could be banned in public under proposals floated by Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan today.

At a press conference to discuss the latest state of smoking in Hong Kong, Chan said a public consultation would be launched “before the end of this government” to gauge public opinion to a total ban or on enlarging existing bans.

“Second-hand smoke is something we worry about a lot, it causes diseases, cancer and death. We are determined to consider expanding non-smoking areas in Hong Kong, and we have to do it faster and broader,” she said.

Professor Sophia Chan (left) says the government will gauge public reaction to a smoking ban

Chan said the government would draw on overseas experiences including New Zealand and Singapore, and consider placing responsibility for smoking enforcement on venue owners and operators.

“We have a lot of complaints about people smoking while waiting for a bus, or on footbridges, so we will look at those complaints and situations,” said Chan.

A thematic survey by the Census and Statistics Department found 5,137,600 persons aged 15 and over – 83% of that population – had been exposed to second-hand smoke in outdoor public areas during the seven days before the survey.

The most commonly cited place of exposure to second-hand smoke was “pedestrian walkways” (94.5%), followed by “outside building / premise entrances” (55.7%) and “open-air bus/minibus/taxi stops and the areas for queuing up nearby” (39.8%).

Chan also said the government would consider a ban on cigarette displays, while Dr Fung Yung, with the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office (TACO), said more than 100 convenience stores were being prosecuted for illegal cigarette advertising displays and more legal action against shops was pending.

And according to the government survey, secondary student use of e-cigarettes has risen, from 0.8% in 2019 to 1.1% now reporting current use.

Earlier this week, the Council on Smoking and Health called for a ban on smoking in commercial vehicles and around MTR entrances and bus stops, citing Macau as an example to follow.

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