Smokers’ rights advocates and anti-smoking activists yesterday accused each other of accepting funds from tobacco manufacturers and pharmaceutical firms, bringing the dispute over the controversial habit to a new level.
The two groups confronted each other at the National Taiwan University International Conference Center, where the annual Cross-Strait Conference on Tobacco was being held.
Chu Cheng-chi , an activist for smokers’ rights, said the government had intimidated people with language and graphic photographs showing the possible consequences of smoking.
He said they opposed an amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act that would increase the size of the “discriminatory” photos, which he said were unfriendly to both smokers and non-smokers.
“The government never clearly defined the hazards caused by tobacco,” he said, adding that the government should pay attention to the rights of smokers since smoking is a legal activity.
Chu said they proposed that more indoor facilities for smokers be built so smokers and non–smokers could coexist peacefully.
Chu also said the John Tung Foundation — a Taiwanese non-governmental organization that has been active in pushing for amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act — promoted a particular smoking cessation drug on its Web page.
He said the foundation should explain its relationship with the pharmaceutical firm that manufactures the drug and asked the government to inform the public about how it uses the health and welfare donations collected from tobacco products.
Lin Ching-li , chief of the foundation’s tobacco control division, questioned the motives of the smokers’ rights activists.
“Tobacco manufactures used to fight against the anti-smoking movement themselves: Now they turn to these activists who have twisted the facts about the health hazards of tobacco and sling mud at the anti-smoking groups,” she said.
Lin said the foundation was run by raising funds from the public, adding that the donations collected from tobacco-substitute products were mainly used to help addicted smokers quit the habit.
More than 50,000 research -reports have been published showing the potential health hazards caused by smoking or second-hand smoke, Lin said.
Lin said what the WHO has stipulated is a complete indoor ban in public places as well as indoor workplaces. She said there were already 60 countries worldwide that do not provide indoor smoking facilities and none of them exempt places that open after 9pm from indoor smoking bans, as Taiwan does now.
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