Taitung County on Friday became the first local administration in Taiwan to fine people for smoking indoors at a hostel or hotel.
The Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) prohibits smoking indoors at hotels, malls, department stores, restaurants and eateries and all business locations with public areas unless there are designated smoking areas.
A hostel owner surnamed Lin (林) on Friday said that many people visit Taitung County and hostel owners are always fretting over guests who do not abide by the no-smoking rules.
A man surnamed Lee (李), the hostel owner who reported the incident that resulted in the county government handing out the fine, said that over the summer he had made two separate complaints, but only the second drew a sanction.
The first report was not accepted, as the hostel had not provided sufficient details, although the Taitung Public Health Bureau had helped instruct the hostel on what to include, Lee said.
A guest at Lee’s hostel was fined NT$2,000, the bureau said.
Taitung Commercial Hotel Union chairperson Lee Shu-cha (李數奼) said it was surprising to hear of a hostel owner making a complaint.
Indoor smoking is a nightmare for hostel owners, as the smell is difficult to get rid of and some smokers use complimentary mugs as ashtrays, Lee Shu-cha said, adding that some people even put out cigarettes on carpets.
However, many business owners are hesitant to lodge a complaint, as people being called to account have been known to retaliate by making baseless accusations to government agencies against the hostel, Lee Shu-cha said.
Most owners just keep quiet to avoid the trouble, he said.
It remains to be seen whether the fine will have any effect, he added.
Hostel owners should have clear signs in their establishments prohibiting smoking and communicate their policy to guests when they book rooms, the bureau said.
Evidence — such as cigarette butts and ash — should be presented along with a complaint, the bureau said, adding that owners are expected to provide the name and place of residence of the subject of a complaint.
Hopefully the fine issued on Friday would set an example, it said, adding that hostel owners should be brave and inform the bureau of any misconduct to discourage repeat offenders.
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