Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare promotes WHO's World No Tobacco Day

15 percent of Taiwanese adults are habitual smokers, at risk of heart attack and CVD

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(By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Today, May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, a yearly awareness day established by the World Health Organization (WHO) that highlights the risks associated with tobacco use.

The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) held a press conference promoting the World No Tobacco Day and discussed the adverse affects of tobacco.

Deputy Director Yu Li-hui (游麗惠) said that according to WHO, more than 7 million people die each year because of tobacco, whether from direct inhalation or second-hand smoke. About 900,000 non-smokers are dying due to breathing in second-hand smoke.

The theme for this year is “Tobacco and heart disease,” which focuses on the connection between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. WHO also provides information about how to reduce risks, assistance with smoking cessation, and suggests measures which governments and the public can take to decrease the negative effects of smoking tobacco.

According to the MOHW, in 2015, there were 420 million people worldwide suffering from CVD, which is the leading cause of death. Tobacco contributes about 17 percent to all CVD and heart disease-related deaths; tobacco is second only to high blood pressure in causing CVD. Out of the 1 billion smokers worldwide, about 80 percent are of low- and middle-income families and countries, in which the tobacco-related diseases and deaths have the greatest impact.

Lin Chün-li (林俊立), president of the Taiwan Society of Cardiology, reveals that many people think that smoking a little will not affect their health. According to MOHW, a study shows smoking as little as one cigarette a day increases the chances of a heart attack by nearly 50% (48% for men and 57% for women), and the chances of a stroke increases by more than 20% (25% for men and 31% of women); however, from the moment one quits smoking, CVD risks are immediately reduced by 36%.

Yeh Hung-i (葉鸿毅), president of the Taiwan Society of Lipids and Arteriosclerosis, emphasized that there is absolutely no so-called "safe smoking amount.” He pointed out that smokers often think that smoking a cigarette a day, or smoking “a little bit,” will not hurt the body, however, it is a grave mistake.

Doctors have said that the harmful substances in the cigarettes will cause the heart and blood vessels to be in an oxygen-deficient state for a long time, which also leads to inflammation.

Yeh also illustrated how human blood vessels are like a rubber tube. At first, the wall was very clean and flexible. However, as soon as one starts smoking, dirt would build up on the inner walls of the vessels, making them lose their elasticity and durability as time goes by. If they become cracked, it can be life threatening.

Yeh emphasized that about 15 percent of adults in Taiwan are habitual smokers. Even more frightening is that up to 60 percent of patients who have been treated for CVD have continued smoking.

In addition, many electronic cigarettes in recent years have claimed to have a smoking cessation effect, which is a big myth for those trying to quit smoking. Yeh stressed that the biggest problem with electronic cigarettes is that no one knows what has been added to the tobacco.

Some reports have pointed out that electronic cigarettes are often the first step leading to the use of tobacco products and drugs by youngsters. For those wanting to quit smoking, it is suggested to use smoking cessation patches and chewing gums for the best results.

Taiwan's toll-free quit smoking consultation hotline: 0800-63-63-63. There are more than 4,000 smoking cessation service contract agencies throughout Taiwan, to inquire, call: 02-2351-0120. Also contact your primary care physician, or consult with the local health bureaus to learn more about smoking cessation counseling or services.