The Legislative Assembly’s (AL) 2nd Standing Committee President Chan Chak Mo said Wednesday his committee had decided to hold a two-month online consultation about the government-drafted anti-smoking bill, starting at the beginning of next month.
The committee met Wednesday to discuss the controversial Tobacco Control and Prevention Law amendment bill.
The bill proposes four main changes to the law, including increase in the public areas where a blanket smoking ban would be in place, such as on all casino premises, and within 10 metres from any bus stop, as well as forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes locally, prohibiting shops from displaying packets of cigarettes, and an increase in the penalties for violating the anti-tobacco law.
The outline of the amendment bill was passed early this month, with 26 legislators’ ayes. Lawmakers Zheng Anting and Kou Hoi In voted against it.
Speaking after the meeting, legislator-cum-restaurateur Chan said that while most lawmakers had no issue with the majority of the bill’s articles, many were concerned about its proposed blanket smoking ban in the city’s casinos, prison and even tobacco shops.
Chan said after the discussion among the committee members, they had agreed to hold a public consultation about the bill on the legislature’s website, which would start on August 1 and run until September 30. He said the committee welcomes everyone to voice their opinion during the period.
The legislature’s website is in Chinese and Portuguese, although there is a page outlining the legislature’s work in English.
Chan added that the committee would also arrange a meeting with the city’s six gaming operators and the management of Macau Prison, as well as a number of civic groups, including six gaming-industry-related unions, such as the Association of Gaming and Entertainment of Macau (AMJEM) and the Macau Gaming Industry Frontline Workers (FMG), as well as two tobacco industry-related unions.
Chan said the lawmakers were concerned that a blanket smoking ban would affect the prison’s operations. Currently, the prison provides a number of smoking rooms for its inmates.
Chan insisted that the committee did not need to consult medical experts at this stage, as “they would just repeat what has already been said.”
Chan also said that it was the committee’s duty to discuss possible changes to the bill, but it would ultimately be up to the government to make any changes.
As is customary, the bill will be discussed in detail by the committee before it is returned with a report by its members about the final version to another plenum for an article-by-article vote.
Chan said while he understood the urgency of the bill, he expected the discussion and possible revisions to last about a year.
The city’s gaming operators oppose the bill’s proposed blanket ban on smoking on all casino premises, arguing for the continuation of smoking lounges, namely in VIP gaming rooms.
Currently, smoking is banned in mass-market gaming halls which, however, are allowed to set up smoking lounges.(macaunews/macaupost)