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January 5th, 2017:

Total smoking, e-cigarette ban in all public places: HPA

HPA announces law to expand ban on smoking to all bars, nightclubs, cigar lounges, including e-cigarettes

The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) announced today a proposed law to expand the recent ban on smoking in public places to bars, nightclubs, cigar lounges, and this will include e-cigarettes with violators subject to a fine of up to NT$10,000 (US$312).

Under the current regulations, smoking is banned in public places. However, there is an exception to this law for hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and other indoor public spaces that have independent air conditioning systems or rooms that have been partitioned for smoking, as well as cigar lounges and bars after 9 p.m.

Lo Su- ying (羅素英), head of the HPA’s Health Education and Tobacco Control Division, told CNA today that the proposed amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act to remove smoking rooms will not only apply to bars, nightclubs and cigar lounges, but also electronic cigarettes a will be included, with the devices banned from public areas and not to be sold to those under 18 years of age.

Lo explained that studies have found that designated smoking rooms cannot effectively eliminate the release of second-hand smoke. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has found that there is “no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” therefore the government plans to require 100 percent smoke-free environments in all indoor workplaces and indoor public places.

As for e-cigarettes, Lo said the draft of the law states electronic devices that release smoke that contain nicotine, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, or other substances harmful to human health are to be banned.

Lo pointed out that e-cigarettes are a growing global health hazard and out of fear that minors will be exposed to such products, these devices will be banned in public places and no one will be allowed to advertise or supply electronic cigarettes to people under the age of 18.

The HPA announced that the draft will have a 60-day preview period during which members from all walks of life of the public can put forth their suggestions to the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan to consider. Once the measure passes, smoking of cigarettes and e-cigarettes will be banned in all public places, and violators will be subject to a fine of up to NT$10,000.

On Jan.1 , a complete ban on smoking at bus stops was instituted for 1,150 waiting areas at 932 bus stops in Taipei City, with violators subject to a maximum fine of NT$10,000 (US$314).

Taiwan plans to expand smoking ban to bars, nightclubs

Taiwan is planning to revise regulations to ban smoking in bars, nightclubs and cigar houses, and to restrict electronic cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, officials said Thursday.

The law currently bans smoking at most public places, but permits it at cigar houses as well as bars and nightclubs that are open after 9 p.m. and exclusively to people above the age of 18.

Smoking is also allowed in certain indoor areas of hotels, restaurants and shopping malls that are equipped with separate smoking partitions with independent air-conditioning systems.

But a draft amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act, which was announced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Health Promotion Administration on Wednesday, will ban smoking at all of the above places, said Lo Su-ying (羅素英), an official from the administration.

Lo said the amendment follows international trend and is based on findings that indoor partitions cannot effectively prevent second-hand smoke from spreading in the air.

The amendment will also ban e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, and make it illegal to provide the smoking alternative to people under the age of 18, with violators subject to a fine of up to NT$10,000 (US$313), Lo said.

Electronic cigarettes have emerged as a new threat to people’s health and could expose minors to cigarettes at an early age, Lo said, adding that the amendment also bans e-cigarette advertisements and sponsorships.

According to statistics released by the Health Promotion Administration, at least 20,000 people in Taiwan die from cigarette- caused illnesses each year.

Over 40 percent of Taiwanese men between the ages of 31 and 50 are smokers, a much higher percentage compared to the 24.9 percent in Singapore, 22.5 percent in Norway, 19.9 percent in Hong Kong and 19 percent in New Zealand, the statistics show.

John Tung Foundation, an organization that focuses on public health issues and tobacco control, said it is glad to see the amendment announced, but urged the government to go a step further and raise penalties for violations.

Yau Seu-wain (姚思遠), a law professor and CEO of the foundation, said tobacco manufacturers and importers are only fined between NT$5 million and NT$25 million for violations, even though their total revenues amount to about NT$160 billion per year.

Yau urged the government to adopt tougher penalties such as suspending the operations of tobacco manufacturers and importers for up to 3 years and doubling their fines to between NT$10 million and NT$50 million, if they were caught three times illegally advertising or promoting tobacco products.

The administration said it will collect opinions from all sides for a period of 60 days, before sending the amendment to the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan for review.

The proposed amendment follows a slew of new regulations in Taiwan to tighten smoking control.

Beginning Dec. 26, smoking is forbidden at sidewalks near 267 schools in Taipei, and is also prohibited at all 932 bus stops in Taipei from Jan. 1.

(By Christie Chen and Chang Ming-hsuan)