Legislator-cum-unionist Jose Pereira Coutinho said on Tuesday that the legislature’s s 2nd Standing Committee could not alter the government’s tobacco control amendment bill.
Coutinho was attending a Q&A session in the legislature when he made the remark.
The outline of the government-drafted tobacco control and prevention amendment bill was passed on Friday. The bill proposes a blanket smoking ban in the city’s casinos, a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes as well as the display of packets of cigarettes in shop.
The bill passed with 26 legislators’ approval, only lawmakers Zheng Anting and Kou Hoi In voted against it.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng spoke to reporters in the legislative chamber after the bill was passed on Friday, stressing that he was open to the possibility of allowing smoking lounges to be set up in casinos, provided that the gaming operators could show scientific evidence that smoking lounges are effective contrary to his previous stance when he quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) according to which only a complete smoke-free environment could protect the people’s health.
The bill will be reviewed by the 2nd Standing Committee. Among its 10 members, six are from the business sector. Government-appointed lawmaker Fong Chi Keong, who was vocal in his opposition to the bill during last week’s plenary debate, is a member of the committee. Legislative Assembly (AL) President Ho Iat Seng on Monday urged the public to trust the lawmakers.
Speaking on the sidelines of Tuesday’s session, Coutinho said only the government could change any of the smoking bill’s articles, while the standing committee could only propose changes to the bill.
Coutinho also said he would attend the committee meeting as a non-member and tell the public if the government was ready to change its mind on the proposed blanket ban on smoking in casinos, which has been vehemently opposed by casino bosses. However, some gaming worker unions have backed a blanket smoking ban in casinos, one of which includes Coutinho. (macaunews/macaupost)