Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Anti-smoking groups fume over legislators' discussions

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers on the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee failed again yesterday to reach consensus on an amendment proposed by anti-smoking groups that would make all indoor public places smoke-free.

The committee meeting was not held in private as is usual because of lobbying pressure from both anti-smoking groups and tobacco firms.

Among the proposed amendments to articles 15 and 16 of the Hazards Control Act (菸害防治法) is one that would prohibit people from smoking in all indoor public places and outdoor public places which are not designated as smoking areas.

"We can't afford to pass an amendment that would have such a massive influence on people and businesses," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chun-hsiung (柯俊雄) said.

Ko said that a regulation asking for the separation of smoking areas and non-smoking areas in indoor public places is acceptable, not a comprehensive ban on smoking for indoor public places.

People First Party Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) said a comprehensive indoor ban would hurt many businesses.

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), who is in favor of the ban, suggested introducing the amendment for a vote on the legislature floor.

The debate over the proposed amendments has been going on for a long time and this is an issue worth voting upon because everyone should declare his or her stance clearly to the public, Lai said.

The proposed amendments have been under committee debate for almost a year. At the end of the committee meeting, the lawmakers agreed to hold another negotiation on the amendments before scheduling a floor vote.

The lawmakers were able to agree on two things -- a proposed article that would allow expectant mothers to smoke cigarettes without running the risk of being fined (the original government amendments had proposed just a fine and the committee had previously approved it) and an article allowing tobacco firms to reduce the size of the warnings printed on cigarette packs.

Smoke-filled debate

* Lawmakers have been discussing the proposed amendments to the Hazards Control Act for nearly a year.

* They backtracked yesterday on a proposal to fine pregnant women who smoke.

* There is no word yet on when there will be a floor vote on the amendments.

Both proposals have been condemned by anti-smoking groups.

Lawmakers, however, said the proposed changes were realistic.

"Now that it's unlikely that smokers will be barred from approaching pregnant women, it is not necessary to fine expectant mothers who choose to smoke," said Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) of the Democratic Progressive Party.

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