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Fri, Jun 16, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Health department chief lashes out at Cabinet smokers


Attacks mounted on legislators and members of the Cabinet yesterday, as the Legislative Yuan's Health, Environment and Social Welfare Committee (立法院衛環會) audited the revised draft of the Tobacco Hazards Act (菸害防制法).

The revisions will extend the range of non-smoking areas and fines for smoking within them.

Among those criticized for setting a bad example were Government Information Office director-general Chung Chin (鍾琴), Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission chairman Hsu Cheng-kuang (徐正光) and National Science Council chairman Weng Cheng-I (翁政義).

When asked by legislators if he will enforce the revised act, Department of Health director-general Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) said he was appalled that government officials were setting a bad example and that he would impose fines on the spot for those he caught violating the act.

He also said he would try to talk Cabinet members into giving up the habit.

In the report at the legislature, Lee said about 10,000 people in Taiwan die annually from smoking -- resulting in a loss to the economy of more than NT$13 billion per year.

According to statistics provided by the health department, male smokers over the age of 18 account for 47.29 percent of the smoking population -- down from the 1973 figure of 60 percent.

On the other hand, female smokers over the age of 18 are on the rise -- and currently represent 5.23 percent of the smoking population. The remaining fraction of the group -- smokers under 18 years of age -- is also increasing, the report said.

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