TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Smokers are breathing a sigh of relief, while nonsmokers will be gasping for air now that a draft amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act has scrapped plans to ban smoking lounges in hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and cigar lounges, health officials announced on Tuesday.
In a reversal from its stance in January that smoking would be banned in all indoor locations, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) announced that the administration plans to now allow smoking lounges in certain locations after all.
Lo Su-ying (羅素英), head of the HPA's Health Education and Tobacco Control Division, told the media on Tuesday that the health surcharge on duty-free tobacco products sold at airports will no longer be added and smoking will continue to be allowed in designated smoking lounges in hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cigar lounges.
In January, Lo has said that the HPA had called for a complete ban on all indoor public spaces citing studies which had found that designated smoking rooms cannot effectively eliminate the release of second-hand smoke. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has found that there is "no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke," therefore Lo had said in January that the government had planned to require 100 percent smoke-free environments in all indoor workplaces and indoor public places.
Lo said that the HPA decided to remove the full indoor ban from the draft because 43 restaurants, hotels, and other establishments have informed the government that they have special separate smoking lounges "that will avoid affecting the majority of nonsmokers," despite the studies she had cited in January which found such smoking rooms were ineffective.
Lo emphasized that the main purpose of the draft is to reduce the number of minors smoking and to restrict e-cigarettes in the same way tobacco is. The act forbids children and teenagers under the age of 18 and pregnant women from smoking, with violators subject to a fine of up to NT$10,000 (US$313).
The revised version of the draft is expected to be sent to the Executive Yuan at the end of May and then dealt with in accordance with the relevant bill procedures.
The HPA announced that the draft will have a 60-day preview period during which members from all walks of life of the public can put forth their suggestions to the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan to consider.
On Jan.1 , a complete ban on smoking at bus stops was instituted for 1,150 waiting areas at 932 bus stops in Taipei City, with violators subject to a maximum fine of NT$10,000 (US$314).