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Activists decry tobacco industry incentives

DYING TRADE:A group called on the government to forbid the construction of any more tobacco factories and to close the industry to investment from overseas

Action should be taken to stop foreign firms investing in tobacco factories, activists said yesterday, condemning the Ministry of Economic Affairs for providing economic incentives even as tobacco production in other developed nations has fallen.

The Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) investment in a new factory in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park comes as the “sun is setting” for the industry in Japan, John Tung Foundation chief executive officer Yao Shi-yuan (姚思遠) said, demanding that the government put the tobacco industry on a list of industries for which foreign investment is forbidden.

John Tung Foundation tobacco control division head Lin Ching-li (林清麗) said that four of Japan’s nine tobacco factories were scheduled to close by the end of the year, with an estimated 1,600 workers losing their jobs.

Because of the prohibitively high cost of producing cigarettes in Japan, the firms are being forced to move production overseas, Lin said.

The incentives the government provides for overseas investors — which include assistance acquiring land and exemptions from property and building taxes — are why Taiwan is seen as a base for expansion, she said.

The foundation called on the Executive Yuan to issue an order forbidding the construction of any more tobacco factories while also placing the industry on a list of industries closed to foreign investment.

It also called for the revocation of JTI’s construction license and the appropriation of Imperial Tobacco’s Miaoli factory, the only other foreign-owned tobacco factory in the nation.

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