Mon, Feb 09, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Most smoking ban violations occur in workplace: activists

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A month after the new tobacco regulations took effect, the John Tung Foundation yesterday said it was disappointed with the way health officials had implemented the law, saying officials had caused confusion.

The Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act (菸害防制法), that came into effect on Jan. 11, prohibits smoking in public spaces and offices with three or more employees, as well as requiring businesses to display no-smoking signs. It also limits tobacco marketing activities to a minimum.

The anti-smoking group said yesterday that in the one month since the tobacco ban went into effect, it had received 142 reports of violations. As many as 80 percent, or 110 of the reports, were complaints filed by workers who reporting violations in the workplace.

Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠), president of the foundation, said that because the law prohibits smoking in “offices with three or more employees” and “public indoor spaces,” it would be a violation of the law to smoke in stairways, corridors and restrooms, all of which are commonly mistaken by smokers to be places where smoking is allowed.

“We originally thought that [the complaints] would be mainly about violations in cafes, restaurants, bus and train stations, and outside hospitals. But it turns out that they are mostly about the workplace,” Yau said.

“This is because the government [Bureau of Health Promotion] was unclear about the regulations and not strict enough when it came to implementing the law,” said Yau, who is also dean of the Chinese Culture University’s College of Law.

On day two of the tobacco ban, Bureau of Health Promotion Director-General Hsiao Mei-ling (蕭美玲) said that smoking was allowed outside a 10m radius of hospitals, train and bus stations, school campuses, government agencies, post offices, banks, offices with three or more people, performance halls, movie theaters, hotels, shopping malls and most restaurants. Her comments were made in response to disputes between health officials and businesses and individuals caused by confusion over the “gray areas” of the law.

The foundation slammed the bureau for misinterpreting the law and ignoring the intent of the act. As a result, “the Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act scores only 80 points [out of 100],” Yau said.

“The disputes surrounding the new Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act leave both smokers and non-smokers not knowing what to do,” said Sun Li-chun (孫立群), president of Consumer Reports Taiwan. “It’s disappointing the way [the bureau] enforced the law.”

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