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Nine months in effect: Amendment of the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act / Continuing Comprehensive Inspections to Curb Sales of Illegal Tobacco Products

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  • Modify Date:Modify Date:2024/02/17
  • Publish Date:Publish Date:2024/02/17

  The Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act was amended and implemented on March 22, 2023. It deems that various tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, and heated tobacco products that haven’t been approved through the health risk assessment review are illegal products. Manufacturing, importing, selling, supplying, displaying, advertising, and using such products are strictly prohibited, with violators facing heavy penalties according to the law.

  The central and local governments are conducting intensified inspections of illegal products collaboratively. According to data from the Health Promotion Administration (HPA), as of December 31, 2023, over 270,000 inspections – both physical and online – on items, business and individuals have been conducted. For illegal activities with completed administrative procedures, 579 disciplinary citations were issued, encompassing 129 cases related to electronic cigarettes, 219 cases related to heated tobacco products, and 231 cases related to the use of electronic cigarettes or heated tobacco products. The cumulative fine amount reached NT$33.43 million. The HPA calls on businesses or sellers not to take chances and violate relevant provisions of the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act. The HPA continues to collaborating with health bureaus in 22 counties and cities, conducting intensified inspections of violators and imposing fines in accordance with the law. The results of investigations into electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco are regularly disclosed on the official website of the HPA.

Assisting Online Platforms in Taking Down Illegal Products: Facebook, Instagram, and Ruten Accounted for 90% of Illegal Products Sold Online

  The competent central government agencies and health bureaus of local governments continue to collaborate on inspecting and cracking down on illegal products, conducting physical and online inspections simultaneously. Physical inspections cover various locations such as physical storefronts (365 suspected illegal businesses nationwide), night market vendors, home delivery or door to door sales, as well as sales near the vicinity of school campuses. Online inspections include e-commerce platforms and social media, focusing on operating or sales activities (e.g., selling, displaying illegal products) and advertising methods (e.g., signs displayed by physical stores, information on online sales pages). Penalties for advertising violations can be up to NT$50 million (manufacturers or importers of illegal advertisements face a maximum penalty of NT$50 million; advertiser, mass media operators, and commissioned producers face a maximum fine of NT$2 million), and the maximum penalty for illegal sales is NT$1 million.

  For online platforms and online social media groups (including Shopee, Ruten, Carousell, MOMO, Instagram, Facebook, PChome, YouTube, Dcard, 7-Eleven MyShip, FamiShop, and self-hosted websites), the HPA provides keyword monitoring to assist platform operators in establishing self-monitoring and takedown mechanisms. While some operators have cooperated and implemented self-management measures, statistical data indicates that a small number of operators have yet to improve their practices. From March 22 to December 31, 2023, over 70% of the monitored suspected illegal cases on the Internet were mainly found on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Ruten. In fact, these three platforms accounted for as much as 90% of the cases in the past three months alone. The HPA, in collaboration with local government health bureaus, will continue to monitor and inspect violators, and transfer the case to health bureaus for determination.

Businesses and Sellers Should Adhere to the Law, and Avoid Breaking the Law

  With the enforcement of the amended Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act for over 9 months, the close and concerted collaboration between central and local governments has led to continuous and intensified inspections for both online and in physical stores, showing no signs of slowing down even as the lunar year is around the corner. The HPA calls on business operators and sellers to adhere to the law. Furthermore, it recommends that operators of online e-commerce platforms implement robust management and review mechanisms to prevent their members from submitting false personal information. Operators are advised to conduct self-audits and promptly remove any products found in violation so as not to violate the law.

  The HPA also reminds the public not to use, purchase, and promote illegal products. If any violations of the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act are observed, individuals can report the specific evidence to their respective local health bureau or by calling the toll-free Complaints on Tobacco Hazards Hotline (0800-531531) from a landline.