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Cigarettes ban won't affect tourism: Lo Chung-mau

2024-06-14 HKT 15:27
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  • Cigarettes ban won't affect tourism: Lo Chung-mau
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau on Friday brushed aside lawmakers' concerns that banning vaping and flavoured cigarettes would make Hong Kong a less attractive destination.

The government last week put forward 10 measures to cut the number of smokers in the city, including a blanket ban on e-cigarettes and making it illegal for people to light up in a queue.

At a Legco panel meeting, DAB lawmaker Starry Lee said Hong Kong would be less competitive when compared with other international financial centres which allow smoking, such as London, while retail sector lawmaker Peter Shiu said the ban would discourage travellers from visiting Hong Kong.

In response, Lo said people did not come to Hong Kong just to smoke.

“Most tourists who come to Hong Kong are non-smokers. Non-smokers always outnumber smokers. When they come to Hong Kong, they don't come to Hong Kong just to smoke. They come to Hong Kong to identify business opportunities. They want to experience our culinary experiences, tourism experiences, and so on,” he explained.

“So when we have a tobacco-free, vibrant, and healthy Hong Kong, it’s always better to have a city that is [free] of smoke.”

Lawmakers also raised concerns about the limitations in enforcement, with election committee sector lawmaker Chan Pui-leung saying there were staff shortages at the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office, and the definition of a queue was ambiguous.

Meanwhile, catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung said the government should allocate more resources to educate the youth about the dangers of smoking, rather than solely focusing on banning cigarettes.

The health minister explained that creating a tobacco-free Hong Kong would require more than just enforcement efforts.

“In fact, it's not just about relying on law enforcement, but also about using certain enforcement measures to establish a culture, a norm, so that everyone will know in which areas smoking is prohibited. It can also be said that everyone is a smoking control ambassador.”

Lo added the government aims to reduce the smoking prevalence rate from the current 9.1 percent to 7.8 percent next year.

Cigarettes ban won't affect tourism: Lo Chung-mau