Macau gaming labour activist group Professional for Gaming of New Macau, led by Cloee Chao, delivered a petition on Tuesday to the Macau government against the plan to retain smoking lounges in the city’s casinos.
Lei Man Chao, deputy director of the activist group, told GGRAsia that the association is not happy with the Health Bureau’s plan to retain smoking lounges in the city’s casinos. The association claims that the decision “goes against” the government’s original plan to implement a zero-smoking regime inside casinos.
Mr Lei said the group would continue to call for a smoke-free work environment inside casinos. He added that the group was not convinced that the eventual implementation of higher technical standards for smoking lounges could be entirely effective against second-hand smoke.
“Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has mentioned that there are no indoor smoking lounges that are completely effective [in containing tobacco smoke],” Mr Lei stated. In a report published in 2011, the WHO noted that while smoking lounges reduce the exposure to tobacco smoke, “ventilation and designated smoking rooms do not prevent exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke”.
Mr Lei said that the results of a survey among casino employees – conducted by the activist group last week – showed that more than 50 percent of about 1,900 respondents were against retaining smoking lounges in casinos; while about 38 percent of the respondents were in favour of keeping the smoking lounges inside casinos. The findings of the survey were included in the petition delivered to the Macau government, added Mr Lei.
The gaming worker activist said that the questionnaire result has been attached as part of the petition to the government, in aim of demanding the local health authority to reconsider the plan to retain smoking lounges inside casinos.
The Health Bureau said meanwhile that it has not yet made a decision regarding higher technical standards for smoking lounges in the city’s casinos. In a press statement released last week, the bureau stated that “in order better to protect the health of casino workers, the Health Bureau has proposed higher and stricter technical standards than the ones proposed by the [gaming] concessionaires”.
The city’s six casino operators proposed a set of stricter specifications and performance monitoring standards to upgrade the smoking lounges that currently exist on casino main floors, including use of a negative pressure mechanism greater than -1 pascal when the doors are closed and a separate ventilation system that directs the exhaust to outside of their buildings.
Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, also commented on Monday on the plan to retain smoking lounges inside casinos.
Mr Tam said: “If the six casino operators are willing to comply to our requirements for higher standards [for smoking lounges] – to raise the negative pressure [mechanism] from -1 to -5 [pascal]; to set an independent ventilation system and other supporting mechanism; and to obtain the agreement from casino employees – and only when all of these conditions are fulfilled, the Macau government will allow the setting up of smoking lounges.”
The official said that the existing regulations regarding smoking in casinos do not contradict the requirements from the WHO. “Singapore, Las Vegas and Atlantic City in the U.S., or South Korea and even Australia, they are all parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. And they have all approved the setting up of smoking lounges [in casinos],” said Mr Tam.
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