Foundation urges ministry to outlaw smoking rooms

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Apr 22, 2017 - Page 4

Smoking rooms should be banned because particulate matter inevitably drifts into the surrounding environment, John Tung Foundation officials said on Thursday, as the nation considers revisions to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法).

Volunteers of the foundation, which fights against tobacco, had taken measurements of particulate matter inside and outside several of the nation’s 43 legally approved indoor smoking rooms, the foundation’s tobacco division director Lin Ching-li (林清麗) said.

“Measurements several meters away from the smoking room gave readings for PM2.5 [fine particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter] of over 10 times the level considered normal indoors, even though you cannot smell the smoke at that distance,” she said, adding that the levels also breached the government’s “purple” threshold for air pollution, above which citizens are advised to avoid outdoor activity.

Dust levels inside the rooms reached more than 12 times the “purple” level, despite the requirement that such rooms be equipped with independent air conditioning to pump in fresh air, she said.

“All of the rooms were up to standard: closed-off rooms with independent air conditioning and automatically closing doors. The problem is that there is still no way for air conditioning to completely filter out all smoke particles using current technology,” she said.

While most indoor smoking is forbidden, special smoking rooms are still allowed in restaurants, shopping centers and hotels.

“There is no way to completely keep the smoke in because it still drifts out and clings to clothing,” said Child Welfare League Foundation chief executive officer Chen Li-ru (陳麗如), who added that a lack of regulations on the location of the rooms had allowed one smoking room to be installed next to a shopping mall nursing room.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has proposed banning smoking rooms as part of a set of amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act which would also remove indoor smoking exceptions for night clubs and bars.