Mon, Jan 12, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Dozens fined for smoking violations

FUMING A store owner who was fined said the government was stealing his money, while a quarter of calls to the John Tung Foundation were protests or four-letter words

By Meggie Lu, Mo Yan-chih and Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Members of a community health association in Kaohsiung County’s Linyuan Township cut a representation of a cigarette in half at a ceremony at Chienyu Hospital yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

The first day of new regulations on smoking in public places yesterday saw dozens of tickets issued for violations against the Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act (菸害防制法) at several locations around the nation, including Taipei City, Taipei County, Keelung City, Hsinchu County, Taichung City, Hualien County, Changhua County and Kaohsiung City.

The new act bans smoking in indoor public places designed for more than three people and requires business owners to display no-smoking signs. Infractions result in fines of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000. Individuals found smoking in smoke-free facilities are fined between NT$2,000 and NT$10,000.

By 3:30pm yesterday, health bureaus in 25 counties and cities had inspected 4,953 establishments and found that 22 failed to meet requirements. Inspections of 592 establishments selling tobacco products found four that did not meet requirements.

Most cases — five out of seven — of people breaking the new rules occurred in Internet cafes.

In Taipei County, a hotpot restaurant was fined after placing an ashtray in front of the building, while a film-developing store was also fined for failing to place a no-smoking sign at the front of its premises.

The owner said the government was “stealing [his] money,” adding that had the government given him a sticker or sign he would be in the wrong for not putting it up, but the government had no right to ask him to buy a sign.

In Keelung City, a taxi driver was issued a ticket for smoking in front of a hospital emergency room. The driver, who will have to pay a fine of between NT$2,000 to NT$10,000, said he did not realize that the open space outside the hospital was also considered a smoke-free zone.

In Central and Southern Taiwan, a Changhua County convenience store was fined NT$10,000 for openly displaying cigarette products.

Tainan City, which had already passed local anti-smoking regulations, added historical sites, parks and malls to the list of places where smoking is banned.

In the East, the Hualien Bureau of Health fined a coach company and an Internet cafe. Both establishments were found to have ashtrays available for use and the ashtray in the Internet cafe even had a cigarette butt in it. The businesses will each be fined at least NT$10,000.

The owner of the Internet cafe argued that the cigarette butt was from a cigarette smoked before the ban came into effect and that his staff had forgotten to put it away, but he was still fined for “an obvious violation of the new act” by the inspectors.

Taitung County issued 10 warnings to businesses that may have violated the new regulations. A hotel placed three trash cans with ashtray tops next to its elevators, arguing that they were garbage bins. Nine eateries and karaoke bars failed to display no-smoking signs, with the owners all claiming they had put the signs up but that they had been “blown away by the wind.”

In Taipei City yesterday, health bureau officials issued a ticket to a hotpot restaurant for failing to display no-smoking signs during a citywide inspection of infractions of the new regulations.

The city government would allow the violator to appeal before fining the owner between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000, Taipei City’s Health Department said.

Allen Chiu (邱文祥), commissioner of the department, said the department would hand fines to violators according to the regulations, but would also give them an opportunity to explain the infraction.

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