Taipei’s littering fines prove hard to swallow

    Cigarette smokers who drop their butts on the ground in Taipei are risking fines that have been increased threefold and more from today, according to a story in the Taipei Times.

    Previously, offenders faced a fine of NT$1,200, regardless of their record, but, as of today, a second-time offender faces a possible fine of NT$3,600, while those on their third offence or more will face having to pay NT$5,000.

    The Times story explained that the increase in fines had followed a controversy early last month over cigarette butt litter in residential areas in Xinren borough near the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, which bans smoking.

    At that time, Taipei Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Liou Ming-lone had said that his department was already working on new measures to target such littering.

    The department said that cigarette butt littering accounted for more than half the fines it levied. It issued 17,452 fines for cigarette butt littering last year, of which 526 were handed out to repeat offenders and 120 to foreigners, department figures show.

    Department agents often used covertly taken pictures as evidence, said Chiu Kuan-hou, head of the department section dealing with the issue, citing the example of a man who was fined even after swallowing the cigarette butt he had dropped.

    And to prevent foreigners absconding without paying up, enforcement agents are empowered to accompany them to a nearby convenience store or post office, where the fine has to be paid directly.

    To help smokers out, however, the city is increasing the number of ashtrays available to them.