By Chen Liang-Ta (陳亮達)
Up to now, there are 144 countries following the FCTC — Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Many members of FCTC counties have completely banned smoking in all public places. No smoking in public area has become a global goal and trend. Although Taiwan isn’t part of World Health Organization (WHO), Taiwan is still active in participating in this pact.
Current situation of tobacco hazards in Taiwan
No smoking in all public area?
According to THPCA (菸害防制法), a law of controlling tobacco in Taiwan, most of the public areas are smoke-free. Besides, a room where two or more people are working with each other is designed as a no-smoking area. However, smoking area in Taiwan is not planned enough. The boundary between smoking zones and smoke-free zones is blurred and indistinct.
“Usually, smoking areas are too far away. Sometimes, I would rather smoke in other place than smoking areas” said Shih Hsin University (SHU) student, Lin Fa Lian (林法連). While other student from Ming Chuan University (MCU), Chen Hsuan Chi (陳瑄竺) indicates that in Taiwan, smoking seems like a criminal. Therefore, the sigh of smoking areas is a drop in the bucket.
The biggest problem in Taiwan is that you can smoke everywhere except in smoke-free zones. Smoke-free zones include hospitals, schools, and restaurants. If you smoke in your home, roadside, or arcade, you are not breaking the law – you’re simply despised by others. As a result, we are surrounded not only by exhaust gas, but also second-hand smoke, even third-hand smoke (三手菸), which is usually attaching the surface of hairs, clothing, even foods.
Policy orientation is contradictive
Long-term care 2.0 (LTC 2.0) has been fully implemented in this year. In order to avoid shortage of funds, the government increases rates in Estate Tax, Gift Tax, and Tobacco Tax, using this money as major source to fund LTC 2.0. Smoke prevention is the international trend. Taiwan’s government has the right to promote no smoking. Tobacco Tax is the main source of LTC 2.0 funding.
Nonetheless, as the price of tobacco increases, the tax from tobacco sales will surely decrease because few are able to afford. According to the Ministry of Finance, the total of Tobacco tax in August 2017 is NT$200 million. Compared with July, which was 1.35 billion, it was down 84%. It is possible that the smoking population will shrink as a result of high tobacco price, and the tax from tobacco sales will decline as well.
Tabaco tax isn’t stable. Apart from that, being the main income of LTC 2.0, the more tobacco sells, the more tobacco tax our government earns. In other words, it is a promotion that invites people to smoke to fill up the funding hole of LTC 2.0. Our government needs to think thoughtfully about its tobacco policy.
What is FCTC?
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, also called FCTC, is the first international compromise on tobacco consumption. Beside, it is the first global convention that has the binding force of international law. Its provisions include broadly banning the tobacco industry from advertising, increasing both prices and taxed of tobacco, printing sordid pictures or words on cigarette products to warn consumers of the damage of tobacco – to names but a few.
Nowadays, there are 144 countries that have signed the FCTC, including Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Bhutan, Uruguay, Lithuania, Iceland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Many members of FCTC have put “no smoking in public area” into action and kept their people away the threat of second-hand smoke.
Harms of Tobacco
Effect on health
According to WTO, about 5.4 million people die of tobacco damages every year at a rate of one person killed by smoking every six seconds. Although there is no evidence that smoking directly harms health, it hurts almost every organs of the human body. Smoking will set in complications for health, including cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and immune system disease. What is more serious is that it might harm human ability of fertility.
Smoking does serious damage not only to smokers, but also creates much second-hand smoke, even third-hand smoke. It is the most hazardous and widespread contaminants in the world and has been labeled as ‘’king of carcinogen’’ by WTO. There are tremendous carcinogens in second-hand smoke. There are more than thirty times of chemical material spreading in the air after someone has smoked in the vicinity. No matter adults or children, once they have been exposed to smoke, it is possible that they will suffer from respiratory disease or CVD.
Effect on environment
On top of its effect on health, smoking creates cigarette butts, which can set things on fire. In Taiwan, littering cigarette ends at will is a common scene, severely damaging the environmental.
According to Environmental Protection Administration, it is estimated that over tens of billions of cigarette butts have been thrown randomly every year. More than one in five cigarette butts wasn’t regarded as general garbage. Smokers take it for granted to litter them. Astonishingly, 6,800 tons of cigarette butts are littered a year. If you pile up this abandoned trash vertically, you will get equally 24,804 numbers of Taipei 101.
The materials in cigarette ends are indecomposable. Cigarette filter need at least 15 years to break down. Some research indicates that cigarette filter can’t be decomposed. Also, the combustion of cigarette would cause 7,000 chemical materials, like carbon monoxide, nicotine, heavy metal, and tar content. Among them are about 93 carcinogens. What a surprise is that the toxic chemicals which cigarette creates are able to penetrate into the sewerage system. In the end, those carcinogens accumulate in our environment.
Japan’s tobacco culture
Smoking is not only part of Japanese life, but also is one of Japan’s cultures. Take Tokyo for example, people live in Tokyo don’t smoke always and everywhere. Most of the smokers follow the regulation, which is smoke-free on the street. In order to protect these smoker rights and interests, Japan’s government sets up lots of no smoking sign on the streets, also, they enhance on implementing and propagating.
Companied of Japan tobacco even promote smoking manner to guarantee that smoking won’t disturb people who don’t smoke. Beside, they also make good use of poster to advocate smoking manners to smokers. These posters can be easily found in everywhere.
Smoking areas setting
Considering that completely ban on smoking everywhere may have influenced on service industry. As a result, it is acceptable to set up smoking area in Japan. Through eye-appeal marker, it can avoid juveniles and pregnant woman accessing. Smoking areas in Japan are quite various. So long as you image place, there are smoking areas in the public place. Smoking areas gather smokers in same places. It is beneficial to control the release of secondhand smoke. More, it can also solve cigarette butts and make the environment protection better.
Smoking-free on streets
Walking along Japan’s streets, you will notice there are always lots of no smoking sign spreading on the road. Japan’s government clearly enactment of law, regulating people where can smoke and where can’t smoke. Major of streets carry out smoke-free on streets. Thus, people are not allowed smoke while they walking. If smokers break the rule, they might receive a one thousand price tickets.
People carry with their own ashtray
There is a habit that Japan’s smokers will carry on ashtray and throw their snipes in it while they smoke. Ashtray could help reducing smoke garbage to lowest. Usually, you are able to buy these tiny ashtrays in convenience store. Due to multi-structure flameproof design, it is possible to safely collect cigarette butts.
Future outlook in Taiwan
“ The law of smoking-free isn’t complete, even has a loophole ” said Taiwan Smoker Rights Promotion Association (台灣吸菸權益促進會) Chairman, Chen Qi Ann (陳麒安). Chen indicated that instead of laying down a clear and definite law of tobacco control (菸害防制法), Taiwan’s government is only enforcing the law on its employees. When people complain about those smokers who break the law, public servants should take action and write a ticket.
When it comes to the boundary between smoking areas and smoking free areas, in Taiwan, it isn’t distinct and the smoking free areas are not designated sufficiently, and people do not know where they can smoke and where they can’t. Chen said that while he once smoke on a Japanese street, polices were quite confused because there were a large number of signs telling people there they can’t smoke. By comparison, Taiwan surely lacks clear signs of no smoking area.
In Japan, smokers clearly know in this place they can smoke and in that place they can’t smoke. But in Taiwan, there are only a few signs that show people this is a no smoking area. In terms of propaganda, the government spares no efforts to advocate cigarette-related concepts. However, the law of Taiwan only tell people where can’t smoke via set up smoking-free areas. Other related legislations haven’t been made yet. If you smoke outside the no smoking area, then you are free. That’s why we are surrounded by lots of secondhand smoke.
In regard to the increasing price of cigarette, Chen said that there are many ways to control tobacco, but raising the price of cigarette does not seem to work. Although smoking is bad for health, people have the right to choose their way of living. Taiwan’s constitution guarantees rights for the people, but suppresses smokers right without protecting non-smokers. In the future, the government should rethink properly about tobacco problems. Keeping a balance on people’s rights to smoke and their rights from breathing contaminated air is the best policy. That is a big challenge to the government – and the people that elect its key members.