Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chong Weng said Tuesday there would be no more smoking lounges in local casinos once a blanked smoking ban is implemented in the gaming industry.
The policy secretary attended a Q&A session in the legislature’s hemicycle where legislators raised questions about the government’s plan to impose a full smoking ban on all casino premises.
Tam said the Health Bureau (SSM) had already completed its latest reports on the implementation of the new smoking regulations in January, adding that the bureau had already passed them to the legislature.
According to Tam, under the new regulations, the bureau will run seminars to raise public awareness of the health risks of smoking. He said a full smoking ban would eventually be implemented in all public indoor places, while outdoor non-smoking venues would also be increased. He said the new regulations would also drastically increase the tobacco tax rate and the fines for violators.
Tam added that under the new regulations, travellers could only bring 19 cigarettes, one cigar and 25 grammes of tobacco products into Macau. He did not say when the new rules would be implemented, merely saying that a committee of the legislature would look into the proposed changes within the first half of the year.
According to current rules, travellers (locals and visitors alike) can bring in 100 cigarettes, or 10 cigars, or 50 cigarillos, or 100 grammes of tobacco products with a total weight of no more than 125 grammes, according to the IATA website on Macau.
Several legislators raised concerns about the new smoking regulations proposed by the Health Bureau (SSM), specifically regarding the proposed total smoking ban in casinos and hotels. Many pointed to the current drop in gaming revenues, questioning whether the bureau’s decision to push for a total ban is a good idea right now.
Tam responded to the concerns by saying that according to research conducted by the bureau’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Office, 85 percent of tourists surveyed by the office did not object to a total smoking ban in public indoor places. He added that of the 30 percent who were smokers, 60 percent also backed the need for a full ban, while only about 15 percent said that they would stop visiting the city should tougher anti-smoking regulations be implemented.
Tam said the smoking ban was necessary to protect the health of locals and visitors alike, pointing out that 20 percent of local deaths were caused by smoking each year which was a hefty cost of lives and healthcare that could be prevented. He also said that while “[smokers] have the right to smoke, non-smokers also have the right to clean air.”
Tam added that all hotels and casinos in Macau use central ventilation, and without a separate ventilation system, it would be impossible to completely separate the smoking lounges from the public areas, and therefore he was against smoking lounges. (macaunews/macaupost)
The local population numbered 640,700 at the end of March, an increase of 4,500 quarter-to-quarter. According to the Statistics and Census Service (DSEC), the female population (324,200) accounted for 50.6 percent of the total.