Tobacco companies that sell cigarettes in cute or fashionable packaging in an attempt to attract young ladies may be violating new tobacco rules, a foundation said yesterday.
Under the new Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Act (菸害防制法) that took effect on Jan. 11, businesses can be fined if they encourage the purchase of cigarettes by means of advertisement posters, electronic panels, animation, bonus points or any discount program, placing more than one box of cigarettes on the counter and selling candies, snacks or toys in the form of cigarettes.
Despite the tighter regulations, tobacco companies still market fruit-flavored cigarettes to young ladies to give the impression that smoking these cigarettes has the same health benefits as eating fruit, the anti-smoking group John Tung Foundation said.
“Many young ladies, perhaps because they are unable to consume enough servings of fruit, believe that by smoking peach [cigarettes], they are getting the same amount of nutrition as they would from a real peach,” said Lin Ching-li (林清麗), director of the foundation’s Tobacco Control Division. “This is completely wrong, but young ladies pass it on to each other and create this kind of misconception.”
A recent survey conducted by the Department of Health also showed that young female smokers are on the rise. Last year, 9.12 percent of female high school students surveyed said they smoked, compared with 8.54 percent in 2005.
The foundation said it has received reports from parents who say that their children purchase more and more packs of cigarettes to collect gifts that come with the cigarettes.
There are some Internet shopping sites that advertise cakes in the shape of cigarette packages, with the logo clearly visible. These could also be seen as a form of cigarette advertisement, the foundation said.
The new rules stipulate that each violation of the tobacco regulation can be fined between NT$5 million (US$148,000) and NT$25 million. The foundation has reported violations to health authorities and urges young people not to be misled by these advertisements.