Macau Government Continues Rowing Over Casino Smoking Policy Changes
Recently, Macau casino operators have been in the news for butting heads with government officials over casino smoking policies it had said were unacceptable.
The government recently flipped on its stance, giving ground to operators to argue their positions on the practice of including smoking lounges in the casinos as designated smoking areas. Since the change in stance, the government has been accused of bowing to pressure from casino operators to keep these lounges in place. However, the government affirms it has yet to give its final word on the matter as it relates to the city’s gambling establishments. More than 30 such venues are believed to be directly affected by the issue.
Macau local television and radio broadcaster Teledifusao De Macau reported that the move comes from the Tobacco Control Office, which is considering the new standards for the airport-style smoking lounges.
Chief Executive of Macau Fernando Chui Sai On told the broadcaster, “I don’t think [the Tobacco Control Office] has come to present a final plan to me yet at this stage. There have been many opinions I’ve been hearing within and outside the government, but of course, we will integrate all opinions and our priorities are the interests of our residents and we will not “kneel down” to any specific sector as this is our responsibility.”
The casino operators with whom officials are speaking with over the proposed changes are adamant about keeping the existing mass-market smoking lounges in place. Chui insisted he was unable to give indication one way or the other of how the situation would proceed, whether or not a ban would come into effect, or what sort of time table that might include.
Currently, Chui is accused by critics of backpedaling on the issue, one such gripe being that the executive had expressed an adamant stance on a total ban for smoking across all Macau casinos, and insisting on a zero-tolerance policy for those continuing to engage in the practice.
What the Help Has To Say
The New Macau Gaming Workers Rights Association, the organization representing gambling workers in the city, recently concluded a survey of 1900 casino employees. The results revealed that 90% were opposed to keeping the smoking lounges in place. The results and wishes of those workers surveyed were supported by a petition filed Tuesday, which requested the government designate second-hand smoking as a workplace hazard. A request for a total ban on tobacco in the workplace was also provided in the language of the petition.
Social Affairs and Culture Secretary for Macau Alexis Tam Chong Veng reportedly came to the defense of operators in favor of maintaining the smoking lounges, much to the ire of the New Macau Gaming Workers Rights Association.
Tam offered these comments to the Teledifusao De Macau, “I personally think that what Macau has done so far does not deviate from the efforts of the World Health Organization or the countries and regions that are signatories of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention On Tobacco Control,” he went on to add, “If [the casino operators] meet the high standards provided by the Health Bureau, then I believe that they will be protecting the well-being of their workers. They will also make the enforcement of the law by officials in the Tobacco Control Office easier. I am certain of this.”
According to another study, casino workers did reveal that in their opinions air quality in the work place had improved since operators began enforcing more strict policies on patrons smoking in casinos. The study was spearheaded by Desmond Lam, an associate professor of hospitality and gaming management at the University Of Macau. His efforts took into account the opinions of 14,300 workers, showing that 87% found the workplace improved with smoking restrictions in place.
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