he Legislative Assembly remains unable to come to an agreement on how the anti-smoking law should be applied to casinos and other entertainment venues, despite the amendments to the draft law proposing a three-year transition period for those establishments.
The Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly held a meeting Monday to deliberate the second draft of “The System for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoking” handed in by the Government.
Committee president Chan Chak Mo said the revised bill is a “better version” and “can make their work easier”. However, he said the lawmakers in the committee were not so sure of the changes regarding how adult venues should adapt to the smoking ban.
In the original bill, casinos, sauna and massage lounges, as well as dance halls were exempt from the ban but required to set up a non-smoking area inside their establishment.
But now the Government has changed its mind and proposed that these places, including bars and open business areas, can enjoy a three-year transition period after which a complete smoking ban will apply.
Chan Chak Mo said the standing committee needs to discuss the change with Government, in order to decide whether the bill should stick to the previous proposal of the setting up of a non-smoking area, a transition period or simply exclude casinos and other related venues from the smoking ban permanently.
“Lawmakers deem that Macau is a special case where the gaming industry is leading the economy and customers in casinos are usually smokers. Why casinos in foreign countries allow smoking but Macau can’t follow suit?” Chan told reporters after the meeting. He said the standing committee hoped that the Government can handle the smoking ban independently for entertainment venues, or learn from the experiences in Singapore or other neighbouring countries.
“The newest casino in Singapore also allows people to smoke in a large designated smoking area inside, probably because they have thoroughly considered the impact [of a complete smoking ban] on its economy, revenues and tourism,” Chan added. In Hong Kong, for example, he said the Government has also imposed a full smoking ban on karaoke lounges, night clubs and mahjong parlours after giving them a one or two-year transition period.
Chan Chak Mo said the Second Standing Committee will strive to meet with the government in early August before the Legislative Assembly begins its summer break on August 15. He admitted that it is unlikely to reach a “100 percent consensus” and discussions on the draft law will not be finished by mid-August.