Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Strict new smoking rules pass initial reading

By Jenny Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

Celebrity and volunteer anti-smoking campaigner Sun Yueh, far right, representing the John Tung Foundation, tries to win a legislator's support following a cross-party review session of the Tobacco Hazards Act at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Lawmakers yesterday decided to keep the proposed amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Control Act (菸害防制法) and refer the proposals for a second reading and further review.

After laboring for two-and-a-half hours in cross-party negotiations while representatives from 100 anti-smoking organizations waited anxiously for the results, legislators yesterday announced that they had agreed that no changes would be made to the amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Control Act which were made at a preliminary hearing of the legislature's committee on sanitation, the environment and social welfare last November.

Provided that the legislative representatives from all parties sign an agreement, the amendments will go through to the second and third reading scheduled for the end of the week.

Although the version of the draft amendments was agreed upon during the meeting, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did not sign the agreement, possibly affecting whether the act would successfully undergo a third reading.

Under the new amendments, smoking will be completely restricted in offices and and public indoor spaces where there are more than three people present.

A number of restrictions have also been placed on smoking outdoors, such as on school grounds.

"There were concerns about ambiguities in the articles. As an example, what if three people are smoking and all of a sudden a fourth person who is also a smoker walks in? Should everybody stop smoking?" Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hou Shui-sheng (侯水盛) said.

Members of the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation who were present were extremely dissatisfied with the results.

They said that the harm done by tobacco was being exaggerated, especially with air pollution posing a much greater hazard to those living in urban areas.

"There should be mutual respect for the rights of smokers and non-smokers. As long as people abide by regulations by only smoking in designated areas, everybody's rights are respected," said Tsai Deng-shun (蔡登訓), director of Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp.

"Rules that people can't smoke at noodle stands will cause businesses to collapse, and this while Taiwan's economy is already in a terrible state," Tsai said.

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