11 March 2015
The Tobacco Control Office (TCO) of the Department of Health (DH) has made great efforts to implement and enforce tobacco control legislation, particularly the smoking ban in statutory no-smoking areas, said a spokesman for the DH today (March 11). The spokesman said that enforcement of the smoking ban had largely gone smoothly and thanked the public for complying with the smoking ban requirements. He also appealed the public to co-operate with Tobacco Control Inspectors (TCIs) to help create a smoke-free Hong Kong.
In reviewing enforcement actions in 2014, the spokesperson said, "The number of complaints about smoking illegally was slightly reduced from 18 079 in 2013 to 17 354 in 2014. TCIs conducted 29 032 inspections in 2014, about a six per cent increase compared with 2013. A total of 8 027 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and summonses were issued to smoking offenders". TCIs will continue to conduct inspections in statutory no-smoking areas to ensure compliance with the smoking ban.
The spokesman said, "The TCO will follow up every complaint and arrange surprise inspections accordingly, including inspections at night. In addition to following up on complaints, the TCO will also conduct proactive inspections at locations with more serious smoking problems. In 2014, we carried out over 4 900 proactive inspections, which accounted for about 17 per cent of our total inspections".
In addition, waterpipe smoking is becoming popular in Hong Kong. Contrary to the belief of many waterpipe smokers, waterpipe smoking is not safer than smoking cigarettes. The spokesperson added, "The smoke from waterpipe tobacco contains numerous toxicants including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. Waterpipe smoking is regulated under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap 371), and smoking a waterpipe in a no-smoking area is an offence". In 2014, the TCO received 14 complaints related to waterpipe smoking, and issued five FPNs for waterpipe smoking offences. In February 2015, the TCO increased inspections to bars that provided waterpipes for smoking. So far, the TCO has issued three FPNs for waterpipe smoking offences in 2015.
The spokesman urged members of the public to observe the smoking ban requirements and co-operate with law enforcement officers. According to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap 371) and the Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offences) Ordinance (Cap 600), no person shall smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe in statutory no-smoking areas. The smoking of waterpipes or e-cigarettes in a no-smoking area is also an offence. Offenders will be liable to a fixed penalty of $1,500.
"Smoking is hazardous to health. We encourage smokers to quit smoking. The DH has collaborated with various organisations, including the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Pok Oi Hospital, the University of Hong Kong, Lok Sin Tong and United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service, to provide free smoking cessation services. A free mobile phone-based smoking cessation tool, the 'Quit Smoking App', can be downloaded to assist smokers to quit. For enquiries on smoking cessation or appointments, the public can call 1833 183, the Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline of the DH," the spokesman said.