Tue, Jan 27, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Legislators allege misuse of tobacco tax revenues

MISAPPROPRIATION?TSU lawmakers said the money had been used to sponsor publications that promote KMT candidates instead of health promotion studies

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers yesterday accused the government of using tobacco tax revenues to sponsor festivals or even print calendars, instead of focusing on smoking prevention and health promotion.

“Each year, the government collects about NT$20 billion [US$638.2 million] in tobacco taxes, which are supposed to be spent on smoking prevention, health promotion and relevant studies,” TSU caucus whip Lai Chen-chang (賴振昌) told a press conference in Taipei. “While 70 percent of the money is spent in these areas, the other 30 percent has become some sort of pocket money for different government agencies to spend on unrelated matters.”

Lai cited a private foundation headed by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳), which he said had been allocated money from the tobacco tax several times to print calendars and a gourmet guidebook.

He called on the government to re-examine all budget recipients, saying the Council of Agriculture, for one, “received a total of NT$800 million over four years to subsidize six tobacco farmers, but it spent only NT$2.7 million.”

“The money is supposed to be spent on smoking prevention and other health-related activities, but these publications are not only unrelated, but also carried the names of KMT candidates,” Lai said. “It is just unbelievable how public money has become funding for a particular party’s election campaigns.”

He said the government had also used the money to sponsor Dragon Boat Festival, Lantern Festival and paintball activities.

TSU Legislator Chou Ni-an (周倪安) said that Hou received NT$90,000 from tobacco revenues in 2011 to publish the gourmet guidebook, while her private foundation was given NT$190,000 each in 2008 and 2010 to publish calendars.

“The purpose of collecting the tax is to help cut the smoking population and to sponsor research,” Chou said. “I do not see how printing calendars and sponsoring festivals are related to the designated purpose in collecting the tax.”

Chang Ying-chun (張櫻淳), an official representing the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said that the ministry only sponsors publications that carry information on smoking prevention and health.

“We sponsored the publication of those calendars because they carried health information,” Chang said. “We will make sure to be more clear about this in the future.”

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