t’s been more than a year of discussions between lawmakers and the Government regarding the draft tobacco control law, which are finally coming to a conclusion. A fourth smoking ban submission was presented by the Administration on April 1 and lawmakers have now reached a consensus.
Chan explained that the latest submission “solves some technical problems,” specifically regarding casino smoking areas. “It the draft law clearly says that casinos can set up smoking areas that cannot exceed up to 50 %t of the total area. The law comes into effect in January 2012, thus, casinos must create these designated smoking areas one year after the law is enacted,” he said.
Enforcing the law in casinos will be examined by the Government every three years, the head of the second standing committee added, and the designated areas will have to meet technical requirements yet to be defined in a forthcoming CEO dispatch.
The lawmakers have as yet not suggested any changes about how the law will apply to public buildings, he disclosed. This means no smoking areas will be set up in government buildings.
However, the legislature legal advisors voiced some doubts concerning how effective the ban might be at local beaches and wish to learn more details about how the Government will establish the non-smoking zones.
According to the Government’s proposal, the ban will be in place in restaurants, hotels, karaoke bars, cinemas, schools and universities, maritime terminals and airports, museums, as well as public parks and gardens.
It also scraps the exemptions for saunas, massage lounges and dance halls initially proposed. In the original draft, these areas would be permitted to set up smoking areas after a transition period of one year.
But these venues, as well as bars, will now have three years to prepare for a full smoking ban, whereas maritime terminals and airports will have a designated smoking area.
Chan said he’s confident that it will be possible to draft the final report and submit the law for final approval during this month.
Gaming operators always said the ban should be introduced gradually, urging the government to allow a transition period. The exemption, however, is not well regarded by the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff Association, which collected thousands of signatures in a petition to totally ban smoking in casinos.