A group of smokers staged a protest in front of the venue of a public health forum in Taipei yesterday, demanding an amendment to the Tobacco Hazard Prevention Act (菸害防制法) to protect the rights of cigarette smokers.
The act, which took effect in 2009, has limited the range of places where people can smoke and has greatly affected the rights of smokers, the organization that initiated the demonstration said.
The Taiwan Nicotiana Association for Human Rights, the first of its kind in Taiwan, seeks to protect the rights of smokers.
It said the law not only bans smoking in designated public areas and indoor venues where there are three or more persons, but also in locations that local authorities may deem inappropriate.
“Our rights are being seriously suppressed,” association chairman Chu Cheng-chi (朱政騏) said. “This is like fascism because the government has complete power in deciding where we can smoke.”
He said smokers have not been allowed to participate in policy hearings or the decisionmaking process regarding tobacco -prevention and control.
However, Bureau of Health Promotion official Yu Po-tsun (游伯村) said that the last such public hearing was organized by civil groups and legislators and that the government was merely a participant.
Whenever the government organizes such events, it usually invites different parties to attend and express their concerns, Yu said.
However, the protesting smokers said they have not been invited to yesterday’s health forum, which was organized by the Department of Health.