Govt accused of flipping its stance on smoking

A Macau-based gaming workers union has accused the government of bowing to pressure from casino operators by allowing smoking lounges to stay, Macau TDM reports.

“I think that the government has faulted on its promise and gave in to pressure made my gaming operators. I think that the government official (Alexis Tam) shouldn’t have made the remark where he insinuated sacrifices have to be made in favour of getting economic benefits”, said Chloe Chao, president of New Macau Gaming Professionals Association.

Chao’s comments went hand-in-hand with the results of a new survey recently conducted by the New Macau Gaming Workers Rights Association, which revealed 90 percent of respondents indicating their opposition to smoking lounges.

Chao’s association in a petition delivered on Wednesday, is aiming to have second hand smoking listed as a workplace hazard, claiming that some gaming workers have suffered from cancer as a result of their exposure.

The association has also urged the government to go back to their previous stance on smoking and to pursue a full smoking ban.

However, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam defended the decision to maintain smoking lounges, saying that it did not go against the guidelines of the World Health Organization.

“I personally think that what Macau has done so far, firstly, does not deviate from the efforts of the World Health Organisation or the countries and regions which are signatories of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. If they (operators) meet the high standards provided by the Health Bureau, then I believe that, firstly, they will be protecting the wellbeing of their workers. Then, they will make the enforcement of the law, on the part of the officials of the Tobacco Control Office, easier. I am certain of it”, he said.  

On Wednesday, Macau chief executive Fernando Chui Sai On said the government was still deciding its stance on the lounges.

“Throughout this long process, now we see that it is only the VIP gaming area of casinos that are left with smoking areas. The government is still studying into this issue and will express its final stance on the matter,” said Chui, reports Macau TDM.

Earlier this week, the Health Bureau confirmed it was considering new technical standards for smoking lounges, which was proposed by the city’s gaming operators.