Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 3 News List

HPA urges smokers to seek help to quit

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

In observation of World No Tobacco Day, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) yesterday reiterated calls for smokers to seek professional assistance in helping quitting the potentially fatal addiction, which the agency said kills one person every 25 minutes in the nation.

“More than 20,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases in the nation, meaning every 25 minutes someone is killed by health hazards related to tobacco,” HPA Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said.

Chiou also described cigarettes as the nation’s “top economic killer,” which she said costs Taiwan NT$144.1 billion (US$4.7 billion) per year, including NT$50 billion in National Health Insurance expenses, representing 1.06 percent of GDP.

Research showed that the rate of successful smoking cessation among people who attempt to quit by themselves is 5 percent lower than those who seek professional assistance, Chiou said.

Citing statistics, she said about 27.1 percent of smokers who turned to the administration’s second-generation Smoking Cessation Program remained smoke-free for six months.

“The success rate is even higher for individuals who call our free smoke-cessation hotline, 0800-636-363, which was the first of its kind in Asia when it was launched in 2003. About 39.5 percent of callers were able to keep themselves from using tobacco for six months or longer,” Chiou said.

“The numbers suggest that willpower alone is not enough to quit smoking,” she added.

Smokers who turn to the Smoking Cessation Program for help are only required to pay a medical registration fee, which ranges from NT$50 to NT$250 per visit, and 20 percent of the cost of medication, with a cap of NT$200 per prescription.

The hotline is attended by psychological counseling and tobacco cessation experts who have provided professional knowledge to 120,000 people and have helped nearly 50,000 people to successfully quit smoking, Chiou said.

Separately yesterday, the antismoking John Tung Foundation urged the government to resume a licensing program for cigarette retailers and called on the public to report any tobacco products of questionable origin.

“Before Taiwan joined the WTO in 2002, only retailers that held a tobacco license were allowed to sell cigarettes. The abolition of this system has made people more vulnerable to unknowingly purchasing illegal tobacco products,” the foundation said.

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