Taiwan to raise smoking age to 20, tighten rules on vaping

Those making or importing banned tobacco products to face penalty of NT$50 million

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A woman using an electronic cigarette exhales a puff of smoke in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

A woman using an electronic cigarette exhales a puff of smoke in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The long-overdue amendment to Taiwan’s Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act will seek to raise the legal age for smoking to 20 and introduce restrictions on non-traditional tobacco products.

The amendment, proposed by the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, was published on Friday (May 29) and is open to a 60-day public consultation.

Wang Ying-Wei (王英偉), director-general of HPA, said the proposed changes will see the smoking age increase from 18 to 20 to prevent nicotine from hampering brain development. According to him, over 82 percent of smokers in Taiwan started smoking before the age of 20, wrote UDN.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation last December raising the federal minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21 years from 18. Singapore has taken a similar move, while Thailand raised the age to 20 in 2017 when a tougher tobacco control law took effect.

The amendment will also regulate the production, import, sale, supply, use, display, and advertising of emerging tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products. Violators that manufacture or import banned tobacco products will incur a fine of up to NT$50 million (US$1.67 million), a significant increase from the current NT$50,000 penalty, in a bid to reduce public health hazards, said Wang.

According to a survey released by HPA on Thursday, the number of teenagers smoking rose for the first time in a decade to more than 81,000 in 2019. The number of e-cigarette users, or juveniles who have adopted the habit of vaping, also climbed to 4.2 percent last year, or 57,000, representing a 50 percent rise.