Health Bureau admits improving smoking lounges is ‘step forward’

The Health Bureau (SSM) has responded to a press conference regarding a study conducted by the University of Macau (UM) on the casino smoking ban, which was commissioned by the six gaming concessionaires. The bureau stated that “the establishment of smoking rooms with high air quality standards complies with the progressive smoking control policies and is a further step into the Legislative Assembly’s procedures [to amend the law].”

The response follows the press conference organized by the gaming concessionaires in which it was claimed that approximately 60 percent of those surveyed expressed support for policies allowing smoking lounges. Close to 90 percent of employees working in gaming areas reported an improvement in air quality in their work environments following anti-smoking measures taken by the concessionaires over the past few years. Such results were cited to persuade the government not to institute plans to roll out a full smoking ban.

While the SSM has said they are “prudently analyzing” the proposals presented by the concessionaires, they also remarked that it was possible to make a few “preliminary comments.”

Firstly, SSM acknowledged the credibility of the study, noting that they consider UM to be a credible, “neutral and academic” source. They further acknowledged that the “sample of the study has enough representation since the results cover all gaming concessionaries.”

The bureau also noted that the results reveal that 55 percent of workers interviewed accept or support the installation of smoking rooms, which they considered “a result with great referential value.”

Generally speaking, according to laws currently in force regarding the conditions and specifications of smoking lounges, the “specifications of the smoke rooms presented by the six gaming concessionaires have feasibility,” according to the SSM.
Secondly, in response to criticism that the establishment of smoking rooms capitulates to companies’ interests, SSM defended the government for accepting smoking rooms (as proposed by the concessionaires). The bureau noted that on multiple occasions, smoking ban laws had been discussed at the Legislative Assembly (AL) with several lawmakers presenting contrary arguments against their enforcement and challenging the government’s proposals to authorize the creation of smoking lounges in casinos.

The health authorities recalled that more recently in May last year, the Second Standing Committee of the AL “approved, with 7 votes in favor and 2 against, the creation of smoking rooms in casinos.” At the same time they recalled that “some associations of workers of the gaming sector have stated that the creation of smoking rooms in casinos is considered an acceptable proposal.”

Remarking on the government’s openness to amend the law, SSM reminded that the bill has not been approved by the AL. For that reason, “the measures to control smoking in casinos remain in force – that is, smoking is strictly prohibited in common areas of gaming. However, smoking rooms may be created, and in VIP rooms, smoking areas can be kept as well as previously authorized smoking rooms.” RM

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