Smoking in public now means $192 fine in Hong Kong

July 3rd, 2008 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, July 3 (DPA) Smokers in Hong Kong are soon to face a new spot fine of almost $200 for lighting up illegally in public. Legislators in the city of 6.9 million passed late Wednesday a new law, which will allow officials to issue spot fines of 1,500 Hong Kong dollars ($192) if they breach new anti-smoking rules introduced two years ago.

Three thousand officers from the city’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department have also been authorised to hand out tickets alongside the existing 85 tobacco control officers.

The new crackdown is aimed at increasing enforcement of anti-smoking laws in Hong Kong which outlaws smoking in bars, restaurants and many public areas such as parks.

Currently, people caught smoking illegally will be ordered to appear in court where they can be fined up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($641) although the average fine is around 700 Hong Kong dollars ($89).

Under the new spot fine system, smokers caught lighting up illegally will be issued tickets which must be paid up within 21 days.

Government figures earlier this year indicated that cigarette sales actually increased in the first year after the public smoking ban was introduced in January 2006.

Officials were Thursday working out the details of the new spot fines and no date has yet been set for their introduction, according to health minister York Chow.

Hong Kong has one of the region’s lowest levels of smoking. Only around one in five male adults in the city smoke compared to between 60 and 70 percent in neighbouring mainland China.

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