Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Health hearing agrees on higher cigarette taxes

CHANGES Participants in a hearing on tobacco laws also reached a consensus on placing restrictions on smoking indoors, in line with WHO regulations

By Jenny Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

Participants in a preliminary public health and social benefits committee hearing on amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Control Act (菸害防制法) yesterday agreed that cigarette taxes should be raised and restrictions be placed on smoking indoors -- in both the workplace and communal areas.

An agreement was reached to raise the cigarette tax by NT$5 on a packet of 20 cigarettes to NT$10. The measure will increase the annual intake of the National Health Insurance Bureau by NT$6 billion (US$178 million) per year.

The recommendations will go through a second and third hearing before being passed into law.

Participants agreed that smoking would be prohibited in indoor working environments and public places, where at least three people were present.

The agreement was reached after much deliberation during which the head of the Public Health Education Center under the Bureau of Health Promotion, Yu Po-tsun (游柏村), expressed concerns.

Public places

"This will drive people to smoke in the streets, such as in Japan. There needs to be a clearer definition of what constitutes an indoor public place," Yu said, adding that such a law would be difficult to execute.

Lin Ching-li (林清麗) of the John Tung Foundation, the largest anti-smoking non-profit foundation in Taiwan said that 16 countries around the world, as well as 10 US states, have already limited smoking in public areas, with many success stories.

Benefits

"Statistics in Ireland show that smokers now smoke less upon going home," she said.

Lin added that the measure was a requirement under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which Taiwan is a party.

Taiwan will remain in a "grace period" until 2008, during which it does not have to fully comply with the FCTC's requirements.

Meanwhile, a motion to raise the price of cigarettes and tobacco products was rejected.

A consensus was also reached that the packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products should not contain misleading information about the harmful effects of tobacco, such as labels that say "mild" or "light."

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