Smoking behaviour in Taiwan, 2001
- 1Division of Health Policy Research, National Health Research Institute, Taipei, Taiwan
- 2University of Baltimore, Baltimore, and Pacific Institute, Calverton, Maryland, USA
- 3The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, Texas, USA
- Correspondence to: Chi Pang Wen National Health Research Institutes, 35 Keyan Road, Zhunan Town, Miaoli County, Taiwan 350;
Purpose: To examine smoking behaviours in Taiwan and compare those behaviours to those in the USA.
Methods: Using the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of Taiwan (2001), a survey of over 20 000 participants, frequencies were calculated for smoking, ex-smoking, quantity smoked, and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Breakdowns by age, sex, and socioeconomic status were also calculated.
Results: The ratio of male to female smoking rates was 10.9 to 1 among adults (46.8%/4.3%), but 3.6 to 1 among underage teenagers (14.3%/4.0%). The proportion of underage to adult smokers was three times higher for girls than for boys. Smoking prevalence substantially increased during and after high school years, and peaked in those aged 30–39 years. Smoking rates of high school age adolescents increased more than threefold if they did not attend school or if they finished their education after high school. Low income and less educated smokers smoked at nearly twice the rate of high income and better educated smokers. The smoker/ex-smoker ratio was close to 7. Male daily smokers smoked on average 17 cigarettes/day, and females, 11. Half of the total population, especially infants and women of childbearing age, were exposed to ETS at home.
Conclusions: Taiwan has particularly high male smoking prevalence and much lower female prevalence. The low female prevalence is likely to increase if the current sex ratio of smoking by underage youth continues. The low quit rate among males, the high ETS exposure of females and young children at home, and the sharp increase in smoking rates when students leave school, are of particular concern. These observations on smoking behaviour can provide valuable insights to assist policymakers and health educators in formulating strategies and allocating resources in tobacco control.
Competing interests: none declared