The John Tung Foundation (董氏基金會) launched a letter campaign on Tuesday to urge Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) to disallow British tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco Group PLC’s expansion plans in the county.
Despite opposition from anti-smoking activists, Liu approved Imperial Tobacco’s application to set up a factory in the county’s Guangyuan Technology Park in March this year.
“Now the company is seeking to expand its operations in Taiwan, as its name appears among a list of companies intending to recruit new employees in a technology park in the county’s Houlong Township [後龍鎮],” John Tung Foundation chief executive officer Yao Shi-yuan (姚思遠) said.
The environmental impact assessment for the Houlong technology park project is still pending approval, and the project’s screening panel has called for a reassessment.
Yao said at a news conference he was worried that Imperial Tobacco would expand its domestic presence by setting up a new production line there.
With prices of tobacco products rising as a result of increased taxation, Yao said major cigarette makers have been exploring new markets and producing specialty products targeted at young people.
“If Imperial Tobacco is allowed to open a new factory in Miaoli, more local youths could join the ranks of smokers,” Yao said. “Therefore, we should step up a publicity campaign to prevent the British tobacco company setting up a new plant in Houlong.”
He urged members of the public to download a letter to Liu from the foundation’s “E-Quit Chinese” Web site to express their opposition to Imperial Tobacco’s expansion and to request the commissioner to reject the company’s Houlong project.
The campaign will encourage the Miaoli County Council to fulfill its supervisory mission by voting down the project, Yao said.
ENTICING THE YOUNG
Lee Feng-ao (李鳳翱), honorary chairman of the Consumers’ Foundation, displayed packs of Imperial Tobacco cigarettes sold in Taiwan that feature pop culture images, including street dancing, rock concerts and DJs, which Lee said were meant to entice young smokers.
“The packaging clearly violates the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act [菸害防制法],” Lee said. “Worse still, the company has bundled three packs in a single large package so that young people can purchase more cigarettes in one go.”
Branding Imperial Tobacco’s expansion plan a “Second Opium War,” Huang Sung-li (黃嵩立), secretary-general of the Taiwan International Medical Alliance, said the company’s Taiwanese investment plan would facilitate its global business expansion.
Accusing the Miaoli County Government of nurturing disease and death in Taiwan and Asia while helping Imperial Tobacco make money, Huang said the expansion plan reflected the company’s “imperial mentality.”
Sun Yue (孫越), an actor-turned-activist, said a survey conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion last year found that 11.41 percent of junior high school students in Miaoli County smoked, a ratio far higher than the national average of 7.79 percent.
“We hope Commissioner Liu will take a cue from these figures and show some guts in opposing Imperial Tobacco’s Houlong plant project,” Sun said.
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