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The impact of the cigarette market opening in Taiwan
  1. C P Wen1,
  2. T Y Cheng1,
  3. M P Eriksen2,
  4. S P Tsai3,
  5. C C Hsu1
  1. 1Division of Health Policy Research, National Health Research Institutes, Taipei, Taiwan
  2. 2Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  3. 3University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Chi Pang Wen
 National Health Research Institutes, 35 Keyan Road, Zhunan Town, Miaoli County, Taiwan 350;


Objective: To assess the effect of the opening of the Taiwanese cigarette market on cigarette consumption, changes in market share, and the effects on tobacco control efforts.

Methods: With the use of key word “Taiwan”, the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library of the University of California, San Francisco, was searched for internal documents related to smuggling activities, promotion of light cigarettes, and market share analyses in Taiwan. Age adjusted smoking rates and cigarette and betel quid consumption before and after market opening were compared.

Results: By 2000, the market share of imported cigarettes increased from less than 2% in 1986 to nearly 50%, and per capita cigarette consumption increased 15% following market opening. Because of the sharp increase in smuggling, with contraband cigarettes being as popular as legal imports, and the rapid proliferation of retail outlets, such as betel quid stalls, the market penetration by foreign tobacco companies was greater in Taiwan than among the other Super 301 Asian countries. Aggressive cigarette marketing strategies were associated with a 6% increase in adult male smoking prevalence, and with a 13% increase in the youth rate, within three years after market opening. The market opening also had an incidental effect on increasing the popularity of betel quid. Betel quid chewing has since become a major public health problem in Taiwan.

Conclusion: The opening of the cigarette market in 1987 had a long lasting impact on Taiwan. It increased smoking prevalence and the market has become dominated by foreign companies. The seriousness of smuggling and its associated loss of revenue by the government, the extent of increased youth smoking and its associated future health care costs, and the increased use of betel quid and the associated doubling of oral cancer mortality rates each pose significant problems to Taiwan. However, the market opening galvanised anti-smoking sentiment and forced the government to initiate and intensify a series of tobacco control efforts.

  • JTI, Japan Tobacco Inc
  • NHIS, National Health Interview Survey
  • POS, point of sale
  • cigarette market opening
  • consumption
  • market shares
  • smuggling
  • betel quid
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  • Competing interests: none declared

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