The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Health Promotion Administration on Wednesday defended a ban on smoking in national parks set to take effect next year, saying that subjecting people to second-hand smoke was a violation of their basic human rights.
The administration was responding to a pro-smoking group’s accusation that restricting smokers from lighting up in national parks was unconstitutional.
Chen Shao-ting (陳紹庭), chairman of the organizing committee of the Taiwan Smoker Rights Promotion Association, said the health ministry has overstepped its legal authority by banning smoking in national parks as of April 1.
“Why not just call yourself the Garrison Command of Health and Welfare, instead of the Ministry of Health and Welfare?” Chen quipped.
Feng Tsung-yi (馮宗蟻), a section chief at the agency, said it was a matter of public interest for people to have the right to breathe fresh air and ensuring that they can is part of the government’s duty.
“If you expose the majority of the people to an environment full of secondhand smoke, that would be a violation of their basic human rights,” he said.
In addition, the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) stipulates that smokers should be separated from non-smokers in public places, he said.
Smoking advocates and lobbyists for cigarette vendors are the ones who are violating the public interest and acting unconstitutionally, he said.
Other administration officials said the government has been trying to extend no-smoking zones to pedestrian crossings, where smokers often light up while waiting for traffic lights to change.
The agency has not made a final decision on banning smoking at pedestrian crossings because such areas fall under the jurisdiction of local governments, they said.