Thursday, September 16, 2010

(Almost) No smoking in Taiwan

It wasn't until earlier this summer, when we spent some time in Malaysia - a country renowned for vigorous government - that I realised just how much progress Taiwan has made in curbing smoking in public places. Even in Kuala Lumpur, the well-run Malaysian capital, quite a few people smoke in places where they expose non-smokers to their exhalations.

In Taiwan, smoking is banned in shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs, train and bus stations and government offices. The law is very widely observed, though I've seen older men ignoring the no-smoking signs on railway platforms. In general, Taiwan has become a much more comfortable place for those with sensitive respiratory systems - partly because of the anti-smoking laws, but also because urban air quality is now much better than it was in the late 20th century.

There's talk of going even further, and making it illegal to smoke while walking along the street, driving a car, or riding a bicycle or motorcycle. The proposed new law could also compel smokers to carry their own ashtrays if they're in a place where there's no receptacle for disposing of cigarette butts. This is an excellent idea, as butts can be seen on almost every urban pavement. But would it be enforced?

Taiwan is a good place for those who dislike smoking, but a less-than-ideal destination for those trying to quit. Cigarettes are very cheap (about NTD60; US$2 or GBP1.20, per packet) and sold in every convenience store. 

2016 UPDATE: Cigarettes are getting more expensive, due to health taxes imposed by the government. Many brands cost around NT$90 per packet.

1 comment:

  1. While living in Kaohsiung County and Pingtung, I found that virtually no business was willing to observe the smoking ban; they just replaced ash trays with plastic cups to avoid fines.

    I have a feeling this is true for most places outside Taipei.