New indoor smoking ban plans in Taiwan cause controversy

THE anti-smoking measures which could be introduced as part of the draft amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (the Act), have sparked off acute controversy.

The draft is scheduled to be reviewed by the Legislative Yuan today, but the final version of the draft was not available as of the filing of this news.

According to the Act, smoking is currently allowed in smoking shelters with independent air-conditioning systems in interior spaces of several public facilities, including hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and other business locations for public use.

The exception of anti-smoking ban also applies to patrons over 18 years old of semi-outdoor restaurants and bars and audio-visual businesses such as KTV which open after 9:00 pm.

According to local media, the draft is proposing to eliminate this exception toward the enforcement of a more comprehensive no-smoking ban in interior spaces in all public facilities. The ban could even apply to some outdoor areas, such as beaches and parks. In addition, the draft also seeks to increase tobacco tax and prohibit public display of tobacco products.smoking in taiwan

The potential changes to the Act have encountered strong opposition from parties that champion smokers’ rights.

The right to smoke should not be deprived by law as long as the behaviour does not affect others, according to a group promoting smoking rights. The government should allow the behaviour in smoking shelters of public areas, and the size of such facilities should be determined by the proportion of the smoking population, said the group.

The no-smoking ban in all public places without any exceptions will turn hotel investments in smoking shelters into a huge waste of money, said Chao Ming-yuan, director-general of Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Union.

According to Chiou Shu-Ti, Director-General of the Bureau of Health Promotion under the Department of Health, the bureau will consider fairness and equality and will refer to measures taken in other countries in order to reach consensus over sensitive issues regarding the draft.

The China Post/Asia News Network

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