The number of smokers in Taiwan has been falling for years, but flavored and electronic cigarettes are tempting young people to try smoking and harming their health, while also exposing them to secondhand smoke, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said on Friday.
Smoking among junior-high school students dropped from 7.8 percent to 2.8 percent from 2008 to last year and from 14.8 percent to 8 percent among senior-high school students, the agency said in a statement.
That reflects a trend across Taiwan of fewer people smoking, it said, adding that the smoking rate among adults decreased from 21.9 percent to 13 percent.
Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
However, four out of 10 teenagers smoke flavored cigarettes, with more girls using the products than boys, and it is estimated that more than 38,000 minors smoke e-cigarettes, the HPA said, citing last year’s Taiwan Global Youth Tobacco Survey.
Such alternative tobacco products are a “sugar-coated poison,” the agency said, adding that their flavors and attractive designs might create the false impression that they are relatively harmless or less addictive than traditional cigarettes, but both products contain nicotine and can harm people’s health.
Research shows that e-cigarettes not only can cause cancer, asthma and strokes, but might also explode, HPA Director-General Wang Ying-wei (王英偉) said.
The annual survey found that about 30 percent of teenagers are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, with half of them exposed to cigarette smoke on a daily basis, the HPA said.
Secondhand smoke is harmful to children’s health, Wang said, urging adults and parents to give up smoking to ensure a safe and healthy family environment.
“One person smoking means the whole family is smoking,” he said.
Smoking indoors is also a main cause of air pollution at home, with the concentration of PM2.5 pollutants rising to 10 times the level if there is a smoker at home, he added.
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