Kaoh­si­ung takes heat for Ja­pan To­bacco ties

To­bacco sur­charge rev­enue used to fund JTI fac­tory trips: foun­da­tion


The Kaoh­si­ung City Gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of hav­ing il­licit in­ter­ac­tions with Ja­pan To­bacco Inc. (JTI, ), whereby city of­fi­cials funded trips to JTI fa­cil­i­ties us­ing tax dol­lars from to­bacco sur­charges, the John Tung Foun­da­tion said yesterday.

The John Tung Foun­da­tion de­manded that Greater Kaoh­si­ung Mayor Chen Chu ( ) in­ves­ti­gate and rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion.

“To­bacco com­pa­nies should not have a hand in in­flu­enc­ing gov­ern­ment poli­cies,” the foun­da­tion stated. “We want an apol­ogy and ex­pla­na­tion from Chen.”

Kaoh­si­ung In­for­ma­tion Bureau Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Ting Yunkung ( ) said, para­phras­ing Chen’s words, that there are many mis­un­der­stand­ings that need to be smoothed out about the over­seas gov­ern­ment trips, which were ar­ranged by the Kaoh­si­ung Fi­nance Bureau. All itin­er­ar­ies and bud­gets for fu­ture over­seas gov­ern­ment trips will be re-ex­am­ined and ad­justed ac­cord­ingly, Ting pro­posed.

Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion, an­nual trips made by Kaoh­si­ung gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials since 2008 were car­ried out un­der the name of “in­ves­ti­gat­ing pri­vate and dodgy to­bacco.” The of­fi­cials were also ac­com­pa­nied by high­rank­ing JTI ex­ec­u­tives to each to­bacco fac­tory.

At least NT$2 mil­lion from bonuses have been in­jected an­nu­ally to fund the trips to JTI fac­to­ries world-wide, the foun­da­tion al­leged.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions will be car­ried out, said the Health Pro­mo­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion ( HPA, ), un­der the rea­son­ing that such ties be­tween the gov­ern­ment and a to­bacco com­pany leave a “bad im­pres­sion.”

Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of the HPA Chiou Shu-ti ( ) pointed out that any “gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials vis­it­ing a to­bacco fac­tory,” re­gard­less of the fund­ing ori­gins, “is un­suit­able and in­ad­vis­able.”

“We have met with the Fi­nance Bureau, and asked them to un­der­stand whether the fi­nan­cial funds used for the Kaoh­si­ung gov­ern­ment’s trip to Ja­pan’s to­bacco fac­tory orig­i­nated from the health sur­charges on to­bacco.”

Cuts will be made to the city’s sub­si­dies for to­bacco preven­tion mea­sures if the trip costs were in­deed from the health sur­charges, Chiou said.

Al­leged Vi­o­la­tion of FCTC

Lin Ching-li ( ), head of the John Tung Foun­da­tion to­bacco con­trol di­vi­sion, stated that the trips vi­o­lated the Frame­work Con­ven­tion on To­bacco Con­trol (FCTC). An­nual trips were made, with the ex­cep­tion in 2010 and 2014.

The find­ings were made and re­ported by a pri­vate citizen, the foun­da­tion stated. Prompted by the re­port, the foun­da­tion found upon fur­ther prob­ing that word­ing us­age in the Kaoh­si­ung in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ports was sim­i­lar of that to the JTI’s word us­age in its state­ments about health prices im­posed on to­bacco prod­uct laws. “In­creas­ing health sur­charges on to­bacco is the main rea­son that illegal to­bacco prod­ucts have be­come more and more pop­u­lar,” the foun­da­tion stated as an ex­am­ple from the re­port, and pointed out re­la­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the JTI were glar­ingly ob­vi­ous.

Chien Chen- cheng ( ), com­mis­sioner of the lo­cal fi­nance depart­ment, stated that their over­seas in­ves­tiga­tive trips were to un­der­stand meth­ods such as “mea­sures in search­ing for illegal to­bacco prod­ucts” and “reg­u­lat­ing un­der-aged pur­chas­ing of to­bacco and al­co­hol.” Re­ports from these trips are to pro­vide ref­er­ence for the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and other lo­cal gov­ern­ments, Chien said.

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