Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Taoyuan’s non-smoking park policy sparks anger

By Chen Hui-ling and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A man smokes in front of a no-smoking sign in a park in Taoyuan County on Saturday.

Photo: Chiu I-tung, Taipei Times

Smokers and non-smokers alike have complaints about Taoyuan County’s non-smoking parks plan, which aims to increase their number to 376 by next month.

The county government defended the move as following Ministry of Health and Welfare policy, adding that Dongyen National Forest Recreational Park would be included in the ban.

Violations of the policy will result in fines of NT$2,000 to NT$10,000.

The new plan stands to affect about 300,000 people, the number of smokers in the county’s population, according to Taoyuan County Department of Health data.

On hearing the news, smokers lodged complaints saying that the parks are open and public areas, and that as the smoke dissipates quickly, air quality is minimally impacted.

They said “the government is overreaching its powers if we cannot smoke anywhere.”

However, non-smokers said that the parks are the equivalent of a city’s lungs with citizens exercising there, adding that clean air is important for children and pregnant women, who often use the parks’ recreational facilities.

However, the group accused the county government of paying lip service to the policy, saying that, in the years since it established designated non-smoking parks, not a single fine had been issued.

In response, county government officials said the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) gave civil servants limited powers in what they could do.

Attempts to make offenders produce identification have been ignored, the officials said, adding that violators disappeared before police could be notified.

Chiang Yu-chin (江玉琴), an official with the county government’s health promotion department, said that most smokers in parks are mobile, and that the length of time required to smoke a cigarette — about three minutes — was often not enough to catch them red-handed.

Chiang said that the division would nonetheless step up patrols in the parks to try to enforce a tobacco-free environment.

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