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Macao Should Ban Smoking in Casinos

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on May 03, 2009

At first glance, the move by Macao authorities to increase the excise tax on cigarettes by 300% sounds like a big victory for health advocates. The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, an alliance of countries which have signed an accord under the World Health Organization, believe strongly that higher excise taxes can be an effective means of reducing cigarette consumption. The decision by Macao, which has not yet been ratified, is all the more laudable because the territory relies on gambling levies for virtually all its tax revenues, so increasing taxes on gaspers isn’t motivated by fiscal concerns. Unlike Indonesia, where the cigarette industry provides a huge source of revenue to the government and is thus reluctant to anger big tobacco, Macao has no domestic production. Furthermore, more than half the visitors to Macao come from mainland China, most of whom come armed with packs of gaspers bought at home.

However if the Macao authorities are truly sincere about reducing smoking, they should follow the lead of some states in the U.S. including Colorado and Illinois, [though not yet Nevada, home of Las Vegas]by imposing a ban on smoking inside casinos. When I visited several properties in Macao a couple of weeks ago, including gambling joints owned by local kingpin Stanley Ho, and big boys of Vegas Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn as well as MGM Mirage, I saw people puffing at virtually every baccarat table. It felt like a scene from the original 1960 film, Ocean’s Eleven.

Meanwhile, I saw some encouraging news out of Japan. Bloomberg reports that Japan Tobacco, the world’s third largest cigarette maker, which makes Camel and Mild Seven brands, has forecast its profit will fall 19% for the year ending March 2010. However profit will still reach $1 billion, which is pretty depressing when you consider all cigarette makers sell products known to lead to mortal disease. The declining profits in JT reflect declining rates of smoking in Japan.

However as my colleague Nanette Byrnes and I wrote in a BusinessWeek cover story last week, falling rates of smoking in the U.S. is the big reason Philip Morris International is making an aggressive push into emerging markets where the anti smoking lobbies are less powerful than at home. One of its biggest potential markets is China, where last year it got a license to produce Marlboros.

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Reader Comments


May 4, 2009 02:29 PM

Las Vegas casinos have not banned smoking, and arre unlikely to do so anytime soon.

While the state of Nevada enacted a smoking ban in Nov. 2006, casinos were exempted. Lawmakers are mulling increasing the handful of exemptions in the state's smoking ban.


May 4, 2009 03:55 PM

Why alienate some of your biggest customers? Just put exhaust hoods over some of the tables, and ban smoking elsewhere. Then this becomes a non-issue.

frederik balfour

May 4, 2009 10:01 PM

Thanks Mike. I stand corrected. However I see that some other states, including Colorado and Illinois have implemented smoking bans in their casinos. I believe Australian states have also implemented such bans.

frederik balfour

May 5, 2009 12:42 AM

Roland: THat won't solve the problem of second hand smoke, especially for dealers...see below RENO, Nev., May. 16, 2006
(AP) Five years of research led by a University of Nevada, Reno department head in Reno and Las Vegas casinos have concluded there is a direct correlation between exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace and damage to the employees' DNA.

"The more they were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, the more the DNA damage, and that's going to lead to a higher risk of heart disease and cancer down the road," said Chris Pritsos.


May 5, 2009 02:13 AM

Smoking, gambling and drinking are all wonderful 'vices' of life! Why ban them when we are making big bucks?


May 5, 2009 03:34 AM


It is nothing more than a nuisance to a FEW people!!!
It is LESS harmful than drinking Coffee, milk, using mobile phones etc etc!!

The 1998 WHO Study on ETS proved this!! (Even though they wanted to show that ETS was harmful!) - The figures are clear but they tried to HIDE this fact; they comment;

“Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk.”

Along with five out of every six other studies, this study also showed SHS to have NO statistical significance in relation to harm to adults (ie they could NOT show whether it was harmful OR beneficial!) What it did show however was the questionable integrity of 'tobacco control scientists'!

It is the same with heart disease; Jill Pell and her study claiming that the smoking ban had resulted in a massive reduction in heart attacks in Scotland because of the reduction in passive smoking.- was one of the best examples of JUNK science - there was NO reduction - explained here;

To my knowledge (and I have looked closely) ALL other ‘studies’ on this subject are the same. I know that it is 'tobacco control' policy to repeat lies over and over and at every opportunity – invading your consciousness, until some eventually believe it (the very essence of propaganda) - BUT the cat is out of the bag - everyone should knows about the lie by now, even though some will continue to remain in denial and abnegation.

If anyone out there does not know about this - isn't it time you looked a little deeper - beyond what anti-smokers produce? Isn’t it time you considered the sort of society you want to bequeath to your children.

After all, it is your AND their freedom that is at stake!


May 5, 2009 10:09 PM

Smoking is a wonderful thing!


May 6, 2009 11:27 AM

I am not trying to sound mean, but realistically, diesease, war, famine controls the population growth. The same goes for cigarette addiction/death. Sad but true, it's a way to keep the population at check.

If there was no war, hunger, diesease, etc, all of us would live to 100, but there's insufficient resources on earth to sustain everyone because nobody dies.


May 6, 2009 11:27 AM

Realistically, diesease, war, famine controls the population growth. The same goes for cigarette addiction/death. Sad but true, it's a way to keep the population at check.

If there was no war, hunger, diesease, etc, all of us would live to 100, but there's insufficient resources on earth to sustain everyone because nobody dies.

Michael J. McFadden

May 8, 2009 11:42 PM

KinFree is correct: the fears built up around secondary smoke are far more a product of a lobby that believes "the end justifies the means" and yellow journalism than anything approaching reality.

Just this week was a perfect example with the US antismoking groups hyping a new study that supposedly showed casino dealers were under a deadly threat from "toxic air."

Sounded scary unless you actually looked up and read the study itself and found out the following:

Even with all the fancy ultra-state-of-the-art measuring equipment they had they weren't even able to *detect* 15 out of the 16 "deadly PAH" chemicals they were looking for. The ONLY one large enough to even detect was naphthalene. It was measured at a level of about one millionth of a gram per cubic meter of air... 1 part per billion.

For comparative purposes let's look at the news from a couple of weeks ago when Johnson & Johnson rushed to assure us that their baby shampoo was "perfectly safe" because it only had "trace amounts" of formaldehyde. Those "trace amounts" were 610 parts per million.

The "perfectly safe" baby shampoo had formaldehyde at a concentration 610,000 times greater than the naphthelene the Antismokers are screaming about in this nonsensical "study" designed to influence Nevada legislators and an easily misled public. To read more about this sort of thing see:

Macao would be smart to ignore the craziness that the very well-funded US antismoking lobby is trying to export to the rest of the world.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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