Anti-smoking groups urge government to outlaw tobacco ads

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Mon, May 27, 2013 - Page 3

The government should overhaul the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) in accordance with the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control and ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Friday, anti-smoking groups said yesterday.

The groups said the government has not done enough to tackle the country’s high cigarette consumption, especially among teenagers. They said that merely increasing the health and welfare surcharge on tobacco products, as stipulated by a recent amendment to the act, was not the right strategy.

The groups included the John Tung Foundation, the Homemakers United Foundation, the National Federation of Teachers Unions and the Taiwan International Medical Alliance

“The recent amendment to the act has implemented a higher tobacco surcharge, but smoking prevention is not just about taxing consumption,” John Tung Foundation chief executive officer Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠) said.

He added that the tobacco industry should be the main target of government prevention measures, particularly by implementing policies to rein in the industry’s marketing tactics.

National Federation of Teachers Unions secretary-general Lee Ya-ching (李雅菁) said that health warnings on cigarette packaging in Taiwan are the smallest and most moderate among the 63 countries that display such warnings, occupying only 35 percent of packaging.

“Public displays of tobacco products should also be banned,” Lee said. “Taiwan has more than 10,000 convenience stores that are open 24 hours a day, all with a wall displaying colorful cigarette packs behind the cashier. These displays are implicitly inciting young people to consume the products as smokers do not need the display to determine what they need.”

Homemakers United Foundation chairperson Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said that while the smoking rate among adults decreased from 20 percent in 2009 to 9.1 percent in 2011 — after smoking bans in indoor public spaces and workplaces were implemented and the tobacco tax raised by 10 percent — total cigarette consumption increased from 2.018 billion packs to 2.022 billion in the same period.

“Who consumed the extra cigarettes?” Chen asked, saying it was teenagers who accounted for the rise in consumption, as smoking rates in that age group remained relatively unchanged during the two-year period.

Taiwan International Medical Alliance secretary-general Huang Song-lih (黃嵩立) said tobacco advertising and promotion has not been effectively regulated.

“The packaging itself is a type of advertisement,” said Huang, urging the government to introduce tougher packaging regulations and ban tobacco sponsorship to curb tobacco industry lobbying.