Health officials visited several shops and restaurants in Taipei yesterday and found that despite the new tobacco regulations that take effect tomorrow, many business owners were still unprepared and could face heavy fines.
Department of Health (DOH) Deputy Minister Cheng Shou-hsia (鄭守夏) led a group of health officials from the local health department and the Bureau of Health Promotion through the streets of Ximending (西門町) to check shops, restaurants, karaoke bars and convenience stores for violation of the new Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act (菸害防制法).
Under the new regulations, owners of establishments in which smoking is prohibited must display clear no smoking signs at the entrance. This would include offices with more than three people, government organizations, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, Internet cafes and karaoke bars.
In anticipation of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, one McDonald's restaurant placed a large inflatable “wealth god” at the front entrance to welcome visitors. However, Cheng pointed out that because the inflatable doll blocked the no smoking sign, McDonald's could be fined between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000 (US$1,500) once the new regulation takes effect.
Upon hearing this, restaurant staff hurriedly tried to stash the doll, causing a commotion in the restaurant.
“Some of the shops used transparent no-smoking displays, which are hard to see but still do not violate the law,” Cheng told reporters. “However, we hope they will display larger and clearer signs, so for the next step, we will send health officials to encourage them to change their signs.”
Cheng was referring to the Eslite shopping area that displayed a small, pink no smoking sign, which the health officials said was not obvious enough.
The health officials also pointed out that Starbucks needed improvement because its no smoking sign was dark green and printed on a transparent sticker, which the health officials said was not clearly visible.
Although stores with no smoking signs that are not clearly visible will not be fined, health officials will make numerous visits to encourage store owners to improve them, said Yu Po-tsun (游柏村), head of the bureau's Public Health Education Center.