The number of people fined for smoking in Macau casinos during the first eight months of 2016 increased by 32.2% year-on-year while a leading labor union has asked the government to further strengthen its enforcement of the 2014 prohibition.

According to official figures from the Macau Health Bureau, 394 individuals were penalized for smoking in an unauthorized area of a casino between January and the end of August, which compared with 298 instances for the same period last year, while it explained that 78.2% of these incidents had involved tourists. This came as officials made 326 surprise visits to casinos during the eight-month period, which was up from the 301 made last year.

Macau banned the smoking of cigarettes on mass-market casino floors in October of 2014 although VIP rooms and enclosed lounges without gaming machines were given an exemption. But, the government may soon abandon these exceptions and institute a full smoking ban inside casinos as part of a scheduled revision of its tobacco control laws.

However, the majority on the Macau Legislative Assembly’s working committee tasked with scrutinizing any new tobacco legislation is on holiday and is not scheduled to meet again until October 15.

Alexis Tam Chon Weng, Social Affairs And Culture Secretary for the former Portuguese enclave, declared in late-May that the government was prepared to discuss a full ban on smoking inside casinos. In response, the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff Association of the Macau Federation Of Trade Unions recently presented the representative with a petition signed by its members calling for the strengthening of the smoking ban in gaming venues.

Kelvin Choi Kam Fu, Director General for the Macau Federation Of Trade Unions, revealed that the petition had also been prompted after his group received some 50 complaints from members employed at a newly-opened but unidentified casino after only four days. He declared that many venues disregard the prohibition and have created unauthorized smoking zones while simultaneously closing smoke-free rooms.

“If the government is really determined to ban smoking in casinos, the newly established casinos should not have any smoking rooms that are approved by the government and not mention the VIP rooms that allow smoking,” said Fu.

The union official complained that the government had never published clear guidelines on where smoking zones may be located, which has left workers confused as to whether current smoking areas are lawful. In addition to calling for exact rules, he declared that the petition asks officials to resolve the problem of gaming tables located near smoking rooms where workers are often subject to second-hand smoke.

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