Survey shows more Taiwanese smoke outside capital city

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 - Page 2

There is a gap between the number of smokers who live in Taipei and those who live in other parts of the country, indicating the uneven health conditions among different areas of Taiwan, a public health survey shows.

If the smoking rate outside Taipei could be reduced to the same percentage as in Taipei, smoking-related deaths, such as lung cancer, oral cavity cancer and other diseases, could be reduced, the Taiwan Association for Promoting Public Health said press conference to announce its report yesterday.

Chen Mei-hsia (陳美霞), chairperson of the association, said the smoking rate of people over the age of 18 in Taipei reached an all-time low of 13.4 percent last year.

While the rates in other areas have also fallen, there is still a gap between Taipei and the areas with the highest rates — New Taipei City (新北市), with 23.7 percent, Hualien County at 23.4 percent, Taoyuan County’s 22.8 percent, Keelung’s 22.7 percent and 20.1 percent in Taitung County, she said.

Chen said if the smoking rate in Taitung County dropped to the level of Taipei, an estimated 238 male deaths from oral cavity cancer, 256 male deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nine male deaths from laryngeal cancer and 58 male deaths from lung cancer could have been averted between 2006 and last year.

The association said approximately 20,000 people died each year in Taiwan from diseases related to smoking and according to a survey done by the Bureau of National Health Insurance, the smoking and death rates from related diseases of minority groups with lower levels of education were distinctively higher than those with higher education.

The survey also showed unbalanced smoking rates of teenagers living in different areas, with the smoking rate of high school students in Taitung County — at 25.7 percent — about three times the rate in the former Tainan city’s 8.7 percent in 2009, while the smoking rate of junior-high school students in Taitung County, at 19 percent, about four times the rate in Greater Taichung (4.7 percent).