Smokers protest indoor ban, call for equal rights


TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Tobacco Prevention Hazard Act violates human rights, a group of smokers said in front of the Department of Health yesterday, demanding an amendment to the law that took effect two years ago.

The law bans smoking in designated indoor and outdoor public areas such as train station platforms and indoor venues with three or more persons inside, and has brought complaints from smokers since 2009.

“The law is biased in favor of non-smokers and is unjust,” said Chen Shao-ting, the initiator of the campaign and the first organization to be established to protect the rights of smokers in Taiwan.

Chen, a college lecturer who began smoking in junior high school, said the law brands smokers as sub-citizens by forcing them to smoke outside, depriving them of the right to cultivate their addiction indoors.

“The government and foundations have also crossed the line in promoting a smoke-free environment,” he said, adding that their anti-smoking drives often resort to threats and smear tactics.

Citing a slogan from an anti-smoking campaign that says “confident people don’t smoke,” he said the slogan “discriminates against smokers and paints a bad image of them.”

Chen has managed to gather just 60 people nationwide, including non-smokers, to apply for the establishment of an organization that will push for smoking-related amendments and seek equality for smokers in Taiwan.