Smokers should be safe tooAn indoor smoking ban has been enforced since July 1 under the National Health Promotion Act, which bans smoking in restaurants, bars, and Internet cafes over 150 square meters (1,600 square feet). That sent smokers outside to have a puff while out eating or drinking. More than 100 smoking areas were built across the nation in plazas, train stations and parking lots. Starting in January, the smoking ban will be extended to restaurants and indoor public spaces larger than just 100 square meters.
The number of public smoking rooms is likely to increase since smoking on the streets and non-designated areas can annoy nonsmokers due to a growing awareness of the health risks of secondhand smoke.
But many of the designated smoking rooms built outside are illegal and unauthorized facilities. The smoke-free law allows restaurants and other public places to install smoking rooms outside. Under current construction regulations, if smoking areas are proper structures with walls, pillars and a roof, they need to be reported and examined before gaining formal approval to accommodate people. Even if they are makeshift facilities, the structures must be approved by local governments.
The nationwide anti-smoking policy has been enforced without considering supporting regulations. Before authorities launch a crackdown on people building structures to deal with the ban, they should brush up necessary regulations to ensure public safety and convenience for all. The government should coordinate with related offices and authorities to draw up auxiliary laws and regulations.
Making indoors and public places smoke-free is undeniably a good idea. In order to get the cooperation of smokers, a decent environment must be provided so smokers can also exercise their civic rights. Legalization of outdoor smoking zones should be part of such considerations. The current unlicensed and unauthorized smoking rooms and zones are exposed to safety hazards as they are not built with fire safety regulations in mind. Even before laws and regulations are enforced, local governments and authorities should carry out safety examinations on these facilities. Local governments do not necessarily have to wait for a law. It would be better and faster for all involved for local governments to act first to ensure both safety and convenience for smokers.