Smoking while walking, driving could be banned

CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN: EPA officials say a recent survey found widespread support for moves to require smokers either to stand next to ashtrays or to carry their own

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 4

Smokers smoking without access to an ashtray could soon be breaking the law, if a proposed amendment to the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法) being pitched by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) becomes law.

Officials said yesterday the agency was one step closer to submitting the proposal to the legislature after a telephone survey showed the public supports tough regulations to curb cigarette litter.

The proposed amendments would also ban smoking while riding scooters and motorcycles, officials said, adding that a similar ban for drivers could follow.

Environmental Health and Pollutant Management Director Wang Jiunn-iuan (王俊淵) said the ban was being considered because smokers puffing without an ashtray were the main cause of the estimated 10 billion butts discarded annually across the nation.

“It has been difficult to catch offenders because throwing away a butt only takes a second,” Wang said. “We are now going after the source — smokers who obviously have nowhere to dispose of their cigarettes.”

Under the proposed regulations, smokers in public spaces would have to either stand near ashtrays or carry a portable ashtray or container.

Smoking while walking or riding scooters and motorcycles would be banned completely, Wang said, adding that offenders could face fines ranging from NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 handed out by EPA personnel or traffic police.

The vast majority of respondents to a telephone poll conducted by the EPA said they supported the proposed regulations, he said.

More than 84 percent of respondents answered “no” when asked if motorists should be allowed to smoke while driving cars or riding scooters and motorcycles, while 10.8 percent said “yes, but on the condition that an ashtray be used,” he said.

The results showed that the proposed regulations met public expectations, Wang said. However, several details still have to be resolved, including questions over how far smokers could be from ashtrays and implementation procedures, he said.

“All in all, we think it’s a good start … we will work out the details over the next few weeks,” he said.

The EPA is also considering asking convenience stores and office buildings to set up smoking areas, he said.

University student Steve Wu (吳國賓) said he supported the proposals even though he is a smoker.

“Scooters emit enough pollution and smoke as it is. I think it’s a good measure for improving public health,” he said.

However, a motorist who asked not to be named said the proposals sounded confusing and would probably be difficult to enforce.

“How would police know if I’m carrying an ashtray in my pocket? Maybe I could use a bottle or something … would that work?” he said.