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Taipei Bans All Indoor Smoking

Agence France Presse in Taipei – Updated on Jan 12, 2009

Taiwan yesterday banned smoking in all indoor public places in what campaigners say is a milestone in creating a smoke-free island.

Smoking had previously been banned in hospitals, schools, theatres, libraries, offices and lifts.

Under the new law, it is also banned in hotels, restaurants, karaoke bars and internet cafes.

Those caught lighting up in smoke-free spots will face fines of up to NT$10,000 (HK$2,300).

“The new law is a milestone in making Taiwan a smoke-free country,” said Lin Ching-li, a spokeswoman for the John Tung Foundation, one of the lobby groups behind the campaign.

Airports have closed their smoking rooms and local air carriers are barred from selling cigarettes during flights under the law.

Health authorities estimate that half a million establishments could be affected by the law, which became effective after its 18-month grace period expired. The legislature passed the amended law in June 2007.

The Taipei city government said its inspectors had found that five out of 2,740 public places had failed to post anti-smoking signs at their entrances, for which they could be fined up to NT$50,000.

The law also doubled the “health tax” to NT$500 for every 1,000 cigarettes and 1kg of tobacco and cigars, to raise money for the island’s cash-strapped national health insurance programme.

Authorities hope higher cigarette prices will help curb smoking and reduce related diseases.

Lung cancer has long been a leading cause of death in Taiwan.

Each year, around 20,000 islanders die of the effects of smoking or second-hand smoke.

By 2020, the number of victims could surge to 67,000 yearly, according to the National Health Research Institutes.

There were about five million smokers on the island, it said.

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