The Bureau of Health Promotion said yesterday it would ask the National Communications Commission (NCC) to look into the option of penalizing stations that broadcast cartoons with regular scenes of characters smoking.
Bureau Director-General Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said the bureau found in a survey that cartoons topped other television programs in terms of the frequency of showing smoking.
The survey also found that sports programs and movies about police or teachers often contained such scenes.
Chiu offered examples including the Japanese TV cartoons One Piece, Hiraku’s Go and Naruto (火影忍者), as well as TV series Police et Vous (波麗士大人) and the professional wrestling program Smack Down.
The survey found that, on average, smoking scenes appeared at least once every two episodes. Several cartoons had images of smokers in every episode.
“Parents may be caught off guard because they might not expect images of smokers to appear in cartoons,” Chiu said. “Because cartoons and television series are aired daily at set schedules, children and teenagers may gradually see the images of smokers as acceptable and eventually start smoking. The government needs to take this matter seriously and address it in a more aggressive manner.”
The bureau also said in a statement that while Article 22 of the Tobacco Hazard Prevention Act (菸害防制法) states that images of smoking “shall not be particularly emphasized in television programs, drama or theatrical performances, audio-visual singing and professional sports events,” the act does not specify any penalty.
The bureau said the three major media laws — the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the Broadcasting and Television Act (廣播電視法) and the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) — include penalties for programs that impair the physical or mental health of children.
The bureau will ask the NCC to look into programs that frequently show smoking and determine a penalty for them.
Jason Ho (何吉森), director of the NCC’s communication content department, said the commission would have to turn the cases over to an independent panel to review their content and determine if they impair the physical or mental health of children.
He said the NCC might consider inviting representatives from the bureau to make their case, however, it had not received formal notice yet from the bureau.
“This matter involves judging different values,” Ho said.
“The smoking scenes may be placed in the plots as part of the producers’ creativity. The Bureau of Health Promotion may have its own thoughts on the matter, but we have to consider various factors. Wouldn’t it be strange to completely ban images of smoking?” he said.
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