Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Smoking prohibitions expanded

SMALL VICTORY While anti-smoking activists assailed the law for failing to completely prohibit indoor smoking, they conceded that the regulations represented progress

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

An amendment to the Tobacco Hazard Control Act (菸害防治法) providing for stricter bans on smoking passed the legislature yesterday, but fell short of imposing a complete ban on indoor smoking.

Legislators on Thursday reached a consensus across party lines that an exception to the ban on smoking indoors should be given to hotels, restaurants and markets where there are smoking areas. The bill also excludes bars and audio-visual venues which are open after 9pm and are not open to people under the age of 18.

Dissatisfied with the proposed amendment, anti-smoking activists went to the legislature yesterday to urge lawmakers to move for a complete ban, but their call went unheeded.

"We lost the most important article that smoking has to be banned in indoor places," said Lin Ching-lee (林清麗), director of the tobacco control division of the John Tung Foundation.

Lin, however, hailed an article prohibiting smoking in workplaces where there are more than three people and another demanding producers carry a warning sign covering no less than 35 percent of each cigarette package as "progressive."

Indoor places covered by the smoking ban include campuses under the level of high schools, health and financial institutions, government buildings, KTV, MTV and Internet cafes.

The amendment also stipulates that smokers can only light up in campuses, libraries, museums, gyms and other public leisure places if there is a designated smoking area, which should be less than half of the whole outdoor area.

The prohibition on indoor smoking used to apply only to kindergartens, libraries and laboratories, while the ban on outdoor smoking applied to transportation and medical and financial institutions.

The amendment also imposes more stringent punishments for people caught smoking in prohibited areas, raising the penalty to NT$2,000 to NT$10,000 from the previous NT$1,000 to NT$3,000.

Meanwhile, amendments to the Civil Aviation Law (民用航空法) also cleared the legislative floor yesterday, allowing private aircraft ownership and private airport operation.

Aircraft ownership was previously reserved for government agencies and registered airline companies.

The amendment allows individuals, corporations and civic groups to own locally registered airplanes, but they cannot use the aircraft for commercial operations or leasing.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration should send staff to inspect personnel, equipment and the flight operations of privately owned aircraft regularly, the amendment stipulates.

The legislature also approved monthly salary increases for law enforcement officers.

The amendment to the Statute Governing the Management of Law Enforcement Officers (警察人員管理條例) will affect more than 56,000 lower-level officers, with the rate of increase being determined based on their rank.

An amendment to the Child and Juvenile Sexual Transaction Prevention Act (兒童及少年性交易防治法) was also approved, which holds Internet service providers (ISP) and telecommunications companies responsible if they fail to report potential juvenile sex transactions.

The bill was drafted in response to the rising number of cases in which Web sites or online chat rooms were used as a platform for sexual transactions.

Based on the amendments, ISP and telecommunications companies may be fined between NT$6,000 and NT$30,000 if they knew of potential juvenile sexual transactions, but failed to report such cases to authorities.

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