Sun, Jan 09, 2000 - Page 8 News List


Take aim against smoking

I wonder when the Taiwan government is going to get serious about reducing the number of smokers in this country.

A short while ago, when the Taipei government moved to ban betelnut spitting in public, it was met with fierce opposition by people unwilling to relinquish this habit, which not only can lead to mouth cancer, but produces unsightly red stains everywhere. I understand that smoking is supposed to be banned in public places also, but since Taiwanese sometimes do not have such clear distinctions as to what is public and what is private, particularly in the work space, this rule is hard to regulate.

Imposing laws can only tell people what they cannot do in what location or at what time, but sometimes the basic principle is missed. Evidence shows that cigarette smoking can kill not only the smoker, but those sitting around him. The evidence is so compelling that the US government was able to successfully sue the tobacco companies in America for concealing the dangers.

But it is difficult for people to take statistics seriously, since they always seem to be about other people. Therefore, it should be the government's responsibility to not only educate the people about the hazards of smoking, but to discourage its practice in a social context. In Taiwan it seems that smoking is tied to the business culture: a friend once told me that he feels strange discussing business and not being able to smoke. I have seen cigarettes offered between men as a way of bonding when they meet for the first time to discuss land deals. And who has not seen the baskets of cigarettes offered at the end of a wedding reception? This linkage between courtesy and smoking is particularly troublesome.

Obviously part of the problem is that the government makes money from the sale of cigarettes. And the American tobacco companies, much maligned at home, are only too happy to foist their goods on the willing populations of Asia.

The government will end up losing in the end, as the national health care system must bear the cost of treating cancer patients. Apparently death from lung cancer is quick, but not a particularly nice way to go. But the real cost to the government is the well-being of its people, who it is designated to protect.



Be clear on Taiwan identity

After reading your editorial on Jan. 6, "Lien has a bright idea," I can't help writing to say that the PRC-Taiwan case is not similar to other divided nation cases such as Germany, Korea and Vietnam. It is very difficult to apply the resolutions used by those divided nations to the cross-strait problem.

Every candidate in the March presidential election should face the reality across the Taiwan Strait. No wonder human rights have seemed to supersede the importance of sovereignty in the Western world. But what is the real dynamic behind this development?

Take Soong's statement of "quasi-international relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait," for example. I don't know what he is talking about. Does this mean Taiwan is not a nation? Or is Taiwan a quasi-nation?

I think Soong must understand the definition of a "nation" much clearer than most based on the fact that he has a PhD in international relations.

So, what is Taiwan's identity? To me, all presidential candidates are still afraid of facing this question which is on the minds of most people in Taiwan today. Precisely speaking: Taiwan has been separated from China since 1895 when the Ching dynasty was defeated by Japan. Thus, Taiwan and China actually have been divided for over a century. Under the circumstances, the desire for Taiwan to have its own identity is natural and normal. Therefore, all presidential candidates should not avoid this issue. If we don't know who we are, how can other people (countries) support us? No more ambiguity, please.

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