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New Taipei City stores allowed 1-month display of charcoal products

Hypermakets, supermarkets and convenience stores in New Taipei City will be allowed to openly display charcoal products for sale for one month, starting from Sept. 1-30, a top health official announced yesterday.

Lin Hsueh-rong, director of the Public Health Bureau under New Taipei City, said that since the city government launched in early May a non-open display of charcoal products at hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores in the city to prevent people from committing suicides by burning charcoal, the number of suicide cases in New Taiwan declined significantly in May from April.

But some dealers said their sales of charcoal have declined by 30 percent over the past few months as a result of the above-mentioned policy, and they asked the city government to allow them to openly display charcoal products in their stores for sales, especially in the peak sales period during the Mid-Autumn Festival, when BBQ parties are quite popular outdoor activities, according to Lin.

After negotiating with representatives of hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience store chains last week, the city government resolved to allow one month for “flexible liberalization” of open-display of charcoal products for sales at the outlets during the whole month of September, Lin said.

She also stressed that if dealers choose to follow the existing non-open display regulation, the Public Health Bureau is glad to see the situation.

The bureau yesterday hosted a seminar on the prevention of suicides, inviting experts from Hong Kong to share suicide-prevention strategies adopted by various countries. Speaking at the seminar, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu said that committing suicides ranked among the top 10 causes of death cases in New Taipei City in the past two years, with its ranking declining to 10th place in 2011 from the 7th in 2010 for a decrease of 102 deaths. Nevertheless, Chu said, there were still 565 suicidal deaths last year.

To effectively prevent suicidal deaths, the New Taipei City Government took the lead to enforce non-open display of charcoal for sales in the hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores in early May this year and place big posters persuading people to cherish their lives. Although such a practice has triggered criticisms and oppositions to the practice, Chu stressed his government would insist on “doing the right thing.”

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