The smoking prevalence rates for both men and women have trended downward in Taiwan over the past five years, but the women’s smoking rate in 2011 alone picked up from 2010 due mainly to a sharp increase in female smokers aged between 18 and 29, according to statistics compiled by health authorities.
Statistics compiled by the Bureau of Health Promotion under the Cabinet-level Department of Health showed that the smoking rate for male adults in Taiwan has declined steadily from 39 per cent in 1997 to 38.6 per cent in 2008, 35.4 per cent in 2009, 35 per cent in 2010 and 33.5 per cent in 2011.
The smoking rate for female adults also dropped steadily from 5.1 per cent in 2007 to 4.8 per cent in 2008, 4.2 per cent in 2009 and 4.1 per cent in 2010, but surged to 4.4 per cent in 2011, according to the same tallies.
A survey conducted by the Department of Health under the Taipei City government also indicated that the smoking prevalence rate female citizens aged over 18 in Taipei reached 2.9 per cent in 2011, but the rate for younger female citizens aged between 18 and 29 alone hit 3.9 per cent, the highest of its kind in Taipei in recent years, although still far lower than the corresponding figure of 30 per cent for male citizens of the same age group.
Cheng Chung-cheng, a doctor serving at the Division of Chest at the Cheng Hsin Central Hospital in Taipei, said the increase of female smokers is not only taking place in Taiwan but also in other countries.
He attributed the rising smoking rate for women to the rise of the feminism, saying that “the more independent a woman is, the greater her likelihood of smoking will be.”
This, coupled with the fact that younger females tend to imitate the smoking habit of their female idol TV stars or pop singers, has pushed up the smoking rate for young women in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Lin Lin-ju, a division chief at the Department of Health under the Taipei City government, said some women rely on smoking to ease heavy working pressure and counter pessimistic moods; some are affected by their smoking friends or colleagues, and some just regard smoking as a kind of fashion.
Lin said although quite a few female smokers are aware that smoking is bad to their health, they refuse to quit smoking or give up doing so mainly because they are afraid of gaining weight after quitting smoking.
The city’s Department of Health is joining hands with the John Tung Foundation to hold a spate of anti-smoking seminars in districts such as Nangang, Wanhua, Xinyi, Daan, Wenshan and Zhongshan during weekends through the end of August, aiming to help female smokers effectively quit smoking.
The John Tung Foundation has worked out a one-month anti-smoking menu, recommending four different weeks of foods and drinks best suitable for those trying to give up the habit.