Mon, Jan 12, 2009 - Page 2 News List

SMOKE-FREE TAIWAN: FEATURE: Universities ready for smokeout

RESTRICTIONS Unlike other universities in the central part of the country, National Changhua University of Education chose to completely ban smoking on campus

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wang Chi-Fong, a cook, stamps a no-smoking sign on the window of his restaurant in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

As the new Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act (菸害防制法) took effect yesterday, which introduced strict bans on smoking in public places for the first time, universities around the nation geared up to create a smoke-free environment.

Under the new regulations, smoking is not allowed in a university’s indoor or outdoor facilities.

That means anyone — students and teachers alike — lighting up a cigarette in libraries, school buildings, teacher’s lounges, professors’ offices or on track fields are now subject to a fine of between NT$2,000 (US$60) and NT$10,000.

Some schools with large campus’ chose to establish smoking areas for the schools’ smoking population.

But as the Act stipulates, these areas must be located in less frequented parts of the campus, which would make it less convenient for smokers to satisfy their nicotine craving.

National Chengchi University (NCCU), for example, has only designated 11 areas for smokers on its 103-hectare campus, the majority of which were relatively “remote areas” compared to the school’s main campus facilities.

Smokers are only allowed to puff, for instance, at the right side of the plaza on the third floor of the International Building or beneath the front stairs of the Jitao Building — areas where fewer students hang out after class.

For Fu Jen Catholic University (FJU), there will only be six smoking areas among its 44.25-hectare campus.

Again, the areas are either behind a building or away from the campus’ main passageways.

Unlike other universities, central Taiwan’s National Changhua University of Education chose to completely ban smoking on campus although about 3 percent of the school’s freshmen smoked, university president Chang Hui-po (張惠博) said.

Shih Hsin University (SHU) in Jingmei, Taipei City, also decided not to designate any outdoor smoking areas.

“We hope to completely ban smoking among faculty, teachers and students on campus,” said Ting Hui-chun (丁惠群), director of student matters at SHU’s Office of Student Affairs.

A survey conducted by the school in the fall semester of 2007 showed that about 5 percent of SHU’s students smoked.

Ting said although the school respected the “human rights” of smokers, it had instead opted to explain the health threat and social cost of smoking to those who used tobacco.

With strict prohibition of smoking, SHU had been “psychologically prepared” for objections from smokers, Ting said, adding that the school expected professors and international students to be less cooperative.

“With regard to professors who smoke, the school’s president [Lai Ting-ming (賴鼎銘)] made it [the smoke-free campus policy] during administrative meetings,” Ting said.

But Ting admitted that it would be difficult for the school to keep an eye on a large number of professors who tended to smoke inside their own offices.

“We plan to rely mostly on a persuasion strategy when it comes to professors,” Ting said. “Professors are well-educated. I believe they will understand.”

As for SHU’s students, Ting said, a patrol team composed of some 10 students would inspect the campus between classes and urge smokers to put out their cigarettes.

The principle is to avoid conflict with those who smoke, Ting said, adding that fining those who insisted on smoking on campus would be the last option.

FJU also launched a similar task force, with a larger 900 volunteer group, said Cheng Chi-chu (鄭津珠), director of the sanitary division of the school’s Student Affairs Office.

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