No butts: Taiwan mulls fines for litterbug smokers

Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:34am EST
 
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TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Taiwan is looking into fining smokers who stub out on the streets to try and stop an estimated 10 million cigarette butts from piling up in public each year, environmental authorities said Wednesday.

Backed by 80 percent public support, the Environmental Protection Administration will recommend rules to the cabinet this year with legislative approval expected in 2011, an EPA official said.

Smokers lighting up in public would be asked to put butts and ash in ashtrays, whose numbers will be increased, or collect them to throw away later, said Wang Chun-yuan, an EPA division head.

Enforcement would increase at crowded spots such as train stations, he said.

"The rules will cut down on indiscriminate acts of discarding cigarette butts," Wang said. "If there's a rule, it's got to have some kind of effect."

Another rule under study could bar smoking while riding motorscooters, where smoke wafts into the faces of other motorists. Taiwan streets are packed with scooters during rush hours.

"It's not a bad idea. I ride a scooter and don't want to breathe second-hand smoke," said Taipei doctoral student Yueh Chun-hao, 30. "So I support the rules."

A smoker dropping ashes on a nearby Taipei street corner said he would follow the new rules but that taking his own ashtray outside would be "inconvenient."

An estimated 4.2 million people, or just under 20 percent of the population smoke in Taiwan.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)