Taiwan bans smoking in hotels, restaurants, airports
TAIPEI - Planning on visiting Taiwan? Leave your Marlboros at home.
Taiwanese authorities on Sunday banned smoking in all indoor public places in what anti-smoking activists say is a 'milestone' in turning Taiwan into a smoke-free island.
Smoking had previously been banned in public areas including hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, office buildings and elevators.
Under the new law, smoking is banned in all other public facilities such as hotels, restaurants, karaoke bars, Internet cafes and roofed transport stations.
Those caught smoking in smoke-free facilities will face fines of up to NT$10,000 (S$445).
'The new law is a milestone in making Taiwan a smoke-free country,' said Mr Lin Ching-li, spokesman for the non-profit John Tung Foundation, one of the lobbying groups behind the campaign.
Airports have closed their smoking rooms and local air carriers are barred from voluntarily selling cigarettes to passengers during flights under the new law.
Health authorities estimate that half a million establishments could be affected by the new law, which became effective after its 18-month grace period expired. The amended law passed the legislature in June 2007.
The Eastern cable television station reported that the law had claimed its first offender when a restaurant in Taipei failed to post anti-smoking signs at the entrance, leaving it subject to fines of up to NT$30,000.
The government also doubled the 'health tax' to NT$500 for every 1,000 cigarettes and each kilogram of tobacco and cigars to raise money for the island's cash-strapped national health insurance programme.
Authorities hope that higher cigarette prices will help curb smoking and therefore reduce related diseases.