A non-smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Seoul. Under law, smoking is banned in some public places, including parks, squares, and bus stops. / Yonhap
By Chung Hyun-chae
Smoking should be banned in taxis and apartment buildings to prevent passive smoking, the National Assembly Research Service (NARS) said Sunday.
In its policy report, NARS said, "We propose revising related laws to designate taxis and apartments as non-smoking areas to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke.''
Established in 2007, NARS has been playing a role in offering policy research and insights on a wide range of areas.
The National Health Promotion Act bans smoking in public places including parks, bus stops and city squares. Smoking is also banned on buses that can carry more than 16 people.
But smoking is still allowed in taxis.
According to NARS research, when a cigarette is lit inside a vehicle, the average fine particle concentration increases from 17 micrograms per cubic meters to 1,000 micrograms, nearly three times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard.
Tokyo and some U.S. states have already banned smoking in taxis.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has banned taxi drivers from smoking. If caught, they face a 100,000 won fine. But there is no ban to prevent passengers smoking.
In addition, NARS said apartments should be designated as non-smoking areas because of the increasing number of disputes between smokers and nonsmokers who live in the same building.
In July 2013, the Anti-Smoking Act took effect, prohibiting indoor smoking in restaurants, cafes cyber cafes larger than 100 square meters.
In 2015, restaurants and pubs are likely to become non-smoking zones, regardless of size. The ban is expected to draw protests from restaurant owners and smokers.
In addition, smokers will not be able to smoke in billiard halls and indoor golf driving ranges from late 2015 when the Ministry of Health and Welfare revises the related laws to include all types of physical training facilities as non-smoking areas.