Smoking has been a hot topic of debate in Macau for several years now with new standards currently under consideration. In October 2014, the smoking of cigarettes was banned in Macau on the gaming floors with enclosed lounges and VIP rooms the only exception. However, a full ban may be on the horizon. The Tobacco Control Office is currently considering if they will accept new standards for smoking lounges proposed by six casino operators in the region.

The group needs more time to be able to create a balance between varying opinions of smoking in the gaming venues and are not prepared to provide a schedule for a full smoking ban. A full ban on smoking is still considered a controversial proposal.

A recent study conducted by Desmond Lam of the University of Macau showed that the majority of gaming employees on the casino floor in Macau Casinos are in favor of allowing smoking in some areas of the venue. More than 14,300 individuals were surveyed for the study and 47% were in support of allowing gamblers to smoke in lounges with special ventilation. A smaller percentage, 13% of those surveyed, were in favor of permitting smoking in the VIP areas and main floor lounges.

According to a report on Macau TDM, the Health Bureau of Macau has decided to try and ramp up efforts to enhance conditions within the existing smoking lounges, but one lawmaker is questioning the Bureau’s determination. Zeng Anting feels that any changes could further impact the gaming revenues of the city. Anting stated that some casinos have VIP rooms located on the top levels. The lawmaker feels if the high rollers are made to travel to the ground floor for a cigarette then they will not visit the casinos. The money provided by such gamblers is counted on to support social welfare, education and medical services in Macau, all of which could be decreased if a full smoking ban is put in place.

On the other side of the argument, some citizens feel that smoking lounges in casinos are putting employees at harm and only a full smoking ban will ensure the health of employees. Ella Lei, a legislator in Macau, agrees. Lei has stated that some smoking rooms were never given the green light by the government but were up and running anyway, questioning why this was allowed. Lei pointed out that it is difficult for law enforcement as an agreement has yet to be decided and there are loopholes as well as gray areas within the different sectors.

The Tobacco Control Office received a proposal from gaming operators that seeks to improve the smoking lounges technical standards. Now, the office has to decide if they wish to pass the proposal. The Office does feel that the proposal will provide stricter standard than what is currently in place and the plan is actionable, so it is being considered seriously.

The proposed changes include having an alarm system that will sound when a smoking lounge door is open for more than one minute. An alarm will also sound if the negative pressure of the room falls below the recommended levels.