SSM agrees with revamped smoking lounges inside casinos

Cheang Seng Ip and Tang Chi Ho (right)

The revamp of smoking lounges in casinos “is a step forward,” Health Bureau (SSM) acting Director Cheang Seng Ip said yesterday during a press conference, which outlined the SSM’s requirements for gaming operators regarding smoking lounge inside casinos. 

According to Cheang, the SSM has made some adjustments to its original requirements which will now more effectively address the issue of preventing smoke from leaking out of the lounges. However, Cheang was unable to provide a date for the allocation of smoking lounges within casinos, as it will depend on the opinions of gaming operators.

In 2010, the region’s Legislative Assembly (AL) passed a law, which had the support of the majority of lawmakers, that aims to transform the region into a tobacco- smoke-free territory.

Previous government official reports also showed that over 70 percent of the city’s interviewed citizens support the government pushing Macau to become a tobacco-smoke-free city.

The SSM now is in agreement with the establishment of smoking lounges, and referenced a study by the University of Macau commissioned by the six gaming concessionaires, which was introduced earlier this week. The study claims that 55 percent of the interviewed casinos workers accept or support the installation of smoking rooms.

When questioned about whether the government is neglecting the minority opinion and whether it was under pressure by gaming operators, Cheang denied both and reaffirmed that the current measure “is a step forward.”

He pointed out that the second Standing Committee of the AL “approved, with seven votes in favor and two against, the creation of smoking lounges in casinos.”

He also said that the casinos “have trusted an authoritative institute to conduct the study” and believes that both the UM’s and the government’s studies are reliable.

During the press conference, Cheang said that according to their conditions the casinos can decide the number of smoking lounges they wish to establish.

Cheang affirmed again that “VIP rooms’ smoking areas must be removed, and only smoking lounges must be allowed.”

In his explanations, Cheang said that the SSM has referred to standards from all over the world, including Mexico, Italy, Dubai and New York City.

He also claimed that Macau is turning itself completely into a healthy city, and that the authority will review the process every three years.

SSM’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Office Director Tang Chi Ho introduced the idea that doors of smoking lounges not be allowed to remain open for a continuous period of more than one minute.

Moreover, no activities other than smoking will be allowed inside the lounge, with gaming tables and slot machines also being forbidden.

No tobacco-related advertisements are allowed to be displayed inside the lounge. At the lounge entrance, there should be an area for the SSM to display information regarding tobacco control, as well as warnings about the dangers of smoking.

Both Cheang and Tang repeatedly claimed that installing smoking lounges is not going against the city’s goal of becoming a tobacco-free city, and that it is in fact “a step forward.”

“The Health Bureau cares about the health of casino employees, and will consider their opinions,” Cheang added.

Lawmaker says no to smoking lounges

Lawmaker Lei Cheng I said that she “can’t accept that the government might change the plan from a complete ban on tobacco into a so-called plan for smoking lounges.” She added that “if the government is kneeling to the casinos, then it needs to explain the reasons why.” The lawmaker questioned what kind of standards the government is applying to ensure that establishing the lounges can isolate the dangers and at the same time protect people’s health.

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