Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Health Services
Meeting on 12 January 1998
Implementation of the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Ordinance 1997
This paper reports on the present progress made for implementing the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 (Amendment Ordinance) which was enacted on 26 June 1997. It also describes relevant enforcement arrangements.
2. It is Government's policy to take a step-by-step approach in its anti-smoking efforts. The relevant legislation is the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371). The Administration from time to time reviews the legislation and brings about appropriate amendments, taking account of world trends and local views. The legislation was last amended in June 1997.
3. Different commencement dates will be provided for different provisions of the Amendment Ordinance so as to allow adequate time for the industry and related persons to comply with the new requirements.
The Amendment Ordinance
4. New measures brought about by the Amendment Ordinance include the following:
- to ban the display of tobacco advertisements, with some exemptions, with effect from 26 June 1999;
- to ban tobacco advertisements in printed publications with effect from 31 December 1999;
- to prohibit the placing of tobacco advertisements on the Internet;
- to prohibit the sale of cigarettes other than in packets of at least 20 sticks;
- to prohibit the sale of tobacco products from vending machines;
- to prohibit the giving of tobacco products to any person for the purpose of promotion;
- to prohibit the attachment of gifts, tokens etc when tobacco products are sold, and to prohibit the attachment of tobacco products to other non-tobacco products sold;
- to lower the maximum tar yield in cigarettes from 20 mg to 17 mg;
- to replace the existing tar group system by an indication of tar and nicotine yields on tobacco packets;
- to prohibit the use of words suggesting that a cigarette brand has a low tar yield unless the product has a tar yield of 9 mg or below;
- to set up more designated no smoking areas; and
- to empower the Secretary for Health and Welfare to remove illegal tobacco advertisements or advertising structures.
Together, (a), (b) and (c) will enable Hong Kong to meet, with a few exemptions, the World Health Organisation's target of a tobacco-advertising free community by the year 2000.
5. Consequential amendments need to be made to subsidiary legislation before the Amendment Ordinance can be brought into effect. Both the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Regulation 1998 and the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) (Amendment) Order 1998 will be introduced to the Provisional Legislative Council for negative vetting in early 1998.
6. Except for new requirements (a) and (b) described in paragraph 4, commencement dates for other new requirements will be set by the Administration. Grace periods of 3 to 12 months will be allowed for some measures, depending on the degree of change required. A final decision will be made when the consequential amendment subsidiary legislations have been enacted.
7. Discussion with various government departments on possible enforcement arrangements for the new requirements introduced by the Amendment Ordinance are on-going.
- Customs & Excise Department
The Department has undertaken to restrict the sale of cigarettes in packets of less than 20 sticks and to monitor the indication of tar and nicotine yields on cigarette packets, using the current inspection mechanism.
- Government Chemist
At present, the Government Chemist analyses the tar yields of cigarettes from time to time for the purposes of the principal Ordinance and publishes the result of such analysis. He will now also publish the nicotine yields of cigarettes in the same manner as the tar yields.
- Urban Services Department and Regional Services Department
The two departments are being consulted on the arrangements related to the requirement for restaurants with over 200 seats to designate no-smoking areas. Upon implementation of this new requirement, staff from the two departments will monitor whether a no-smoking area has been designated in such restaurants.
- Hong Kong Police Force
While the primary responsibility for enforcement of statutory no-smoking areas rests with the managers of these areas, the police will offer assistance when offenders refuse to co-operate and when managers seek their help. The police have also been handling cases referred to them for prosecution.
- Staff of District Offices
Our enforcement efforts also extend to the district level. After discussion with the Home Affairs Department, it is agreed that District Officers will assist by drawing our attention to any complaints regarding displayed tobacco advertisements which apparently contravene the law.
- Managers of designated no-smoking areas
We will inform managers of designated no-smoking areas of their powers of enforcement under the law. In this respect, we have been communicating with the Federation of Hong Kong Restaurant Owners Ltd. Where offenders refuse to co-operate, managers can seek help from the police.
- The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health
The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health is a statutory body established in 1987. One of its tasks is to disseminate anti-smoking information (including the health hazards of smoking and relevant legislation) to the public. We will rely heavily on the Council to instil and promote a smokefree culture among the community. The education of smokers to observe the law and of non-smokers to exercise their rights to enjoy smokefree air are important for successful implementation of many of the anti-smoking measures.
We are also considering a role for the Council in receiving complaints (e.g. by means of hotlines) and referring these to the proper authorities for follow-up action.
- The Tobacco Institute of Hong Kong
Many of the new measures require compliance by the tobacco industry. These include new requirements for tobacco advertisements on display and in printed publications, prohibition of tobacco advertisements on the internet, prohibition of giving away tobacco product promotional items, etc. Self-discipline by the tobacco industry is strongly encouraged as a more cost-effective alternative than front-line enforcement by Government staff. Regular contacts have thus been maintained with the Tobacco Institute of Hong Kong to discuss the new requirements.
8. While the success of implementation of various new anti-smoking measures relies heavily on self-discipline by the tobacco industry and observance of no-smoking areas by smokers, active participation by the general public to act as a collective surveillance force is of utmost importance. Members of the public are strongly encouraged to report if non-compliance with the legislation is observed. The Administration will act on complaints and secure prosecutions when necessary.
Health and Welfare Bureau
12 January 1998