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Ben Roberts

How a government policy affects Hong Kong

Using the policy on smoking and underage alcohol as
The Smoking ordinance of 1982 and its many different
ammendments since are the main way the government have dealt
with smoking by making legislation. Over the years the restrictions
on smoking have increased and more and more non smoking areas
have been added to the list. Fines of HK$1500 have been in place
since 2009 for those people caught smoking in banned places.
In addition to legislation the government also uses other things in its
overall policy, one is taxation on tobacco and the other is
information provided in the media by the government and statutory
bodies such as the Hong Kong Council On Smoking and Health
(COSH). This three pronged approach has been very effective since
1982. All statistics show that the number of people smoking in all
age groups has gone down since 1982.
How has this policy affected society.
The most obvious impact of the
policy on society is that there is a
lot less smokers in Hong Kong but
that has now almost leveled out.
Statistics show that smoking has
reduced for both men and women
and in all age ranges since 1982.
This means the population has
become healthier and less people
will be ill or die due to smoking related
diseases. It also reduces the demand on hospitals and is
for those people that dont have medical insurance. The big drops
happened in 1982 and 1989 just after new policies were introduced.
The introduction of no smoking areas especially in indoor spaces has
improved the environment for non smokers and reduces the effects
of second hand smoking.
The government policy has also had the effect of almost demonizing
both smokers and smoking so that smokers feel alienated for their
habit. A lot of smokers are upset that the government has decided
smoking is so bad but alcohol is tolerated. Figures show that more
smokers are working class people that have less money and are
maybe less well educated and feel pick on by this policy. Another is
that smokers who do smoke in banned areas face fines that they
may not be able to afford and might cause hardship for their
There are pro smoking groups that sometimes demonstrate when
new anti smoking legislation is suggested. At the moment there is

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talk of banning e cigarettes and this has caused some protests as
well as complaints from the businesses that make and sell them.
Unlike electoral reform government policies smoking has not
created any civil disobedience like Occupy Central were protesters
blocked streets and fought with the police when asked to move.
Smoking supporters will use peaceful demonstrations, write letters
and organized meetings but avoid more confrontational methods
such as picketing, sit ins or using extreme violence.
Increasing tax on cigarettes has also effected society, as well as
making smokers poorer it has also caused an illegal trade in fake or
counterfeit cigarettes from China, these can be far more harmful
and also cause work for the police and customs officers who have to
try and prevent it from happening.
Another issue is how the law is enforced with bars and restaurants
on Hong Kong island complaining that bars in other areas of Hong
Kong do not enforce the law to keep their smoking customers happy
and nothing is done about this by the police or the government. This
inconsistency causes resentment.
How has government policy on underage drinking impacted on
society in Hong Kong. Almost the opposite of the impact of smoking
policy in that there is very little impact on underage drinking. In fact
many people blame the ending of the Wine Tax in 2008 as a starting
point for a big increase in underage drinking as it became a lot
cheaper. The law covers serving alcohol in bars and clubs but not
from supermarkets and convenience stores. As a result minors can
easily get access to alcohol anytime. But even pubs and clubs in
certain areas are fairly relaxed over the laws allowing minors to use
obviously fake IDs and turning a blind eye especially to ex-pat
minors. The governments view is reinforced by the police that only
seem to get involved if the underage drinking leads to poor behavior
which disturbs the peace. The impact on society of this is that there
is a definite culture of underage drinking in Hong Kong not just for
big events like Halloween or the 7s but every weekend and the
famous Wan Chai Wednesdays. As a result there are no statistics
available on underage drinking or its effects but most people
recognize it as an issue.
Underage drinking can lead to anti social behavior, fighting and
youngsters being sick or passing out but it is the longer term effects
that effect society more. These underage drinkers are more likely to
become alcohol dependent in later life and suffer from liver and
stomach problems. Health experts warn that childrens brains are
still developing and that drinking can effect that development and
can cause memory loss and damage to the nervous system.
Underage drinkers are also far more likely to take drugs or get
involved in unsafe sexual activity.
The government and to a certain extent the police see it as an issue
for parents although there are some charities like the Keley Support

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Group and other youth groups try to bridge the gap but they are
helping minors that already have a problem with alcohol.

Public Services Book 1: Grey et al (2010)