Rise of E-cigarette Use among Youth in Taiwan, with Growth Rate of 50%

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The e-cigarette usage rate among Taiwanese youth is increasing, with a growth rate of over 50% from 2019 to 2021.

According to a report by United Daily News on December 27, the usage rate of e-cigarettes among Taiwanese youth has been steadily increasing in recent years. It has risen from 2.5% in 2019 to 3.9% in 2021, indicating a growth rate of over 50%.

Lo Su-ying, leader of the Tobacco Hazard Prevention Group at Taiwan’s Department of Health, has expressed concern over the increasing prevalence of e-cigarette usage among teenagers, despite a decline in tobacco use among this age group. According to publicly available data, the usage rate of e-cigarettes among junior high school students has risen from 2.5% in 2019 to 3.9% in 2021, while among high school students, it has increased from 5.6% to 8.8% during the same period.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, 6.7% of children in Taiwan under the age of 12 have tried smoking. This indicates that approximately one out of every 15 adolescents has experimented with smoking.

In response to this situation, the Health Agency and the Agricultural Ministry’s Education Administration and Monitoring Group, together with the local Education Administration (hereinafter referred to as the Education Administration), have jointly developed “Tobacco Hazard Prevention and Control Teaching Materials” for upper-grade primary school students. The head of the Education Administration, Ye Xincun, stated that the new teaching materials are diverse, including tabletop games and memes, among other lively formats, with the aim of providing frontline teachers with ample materials for interactive teaching with students. Currently, it has been promoted in 2626 primary schools across Taiwan, China.

The Secretary-General of the Health Department, Wang Yiren, has stated that the majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can easily lead to addiction. Nicotine can affect the development of the adolescent brain and exert neurotoxic effects on the prefrontal cortex, disrupting cognitive development, executive function, and inhibitory control in young people. This can ultimately result in a higher dependency on nicotine.

Russell Ying also cited research findings from overseas, indicating that using e-cigarettes can increase the likelihood of developing asthma by 2.36 times among students. Additionally, it can lead to higher rates of absenteeism and potentially result in students becoming continuous smokers.

On the other hand, according to statistics from the Department of Health, the enforcement of the new Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act in March 2022 has significantly strengthened the crackdown on the 365 e-cigarette or heated tobacco vendors across Taiwan. As of December 6th, a total of nearly 20,000 cases have been monitored or inspected, with 2,554 cases suspected of illegal sales of e-cigarettes or heated tobacco. 425 penalty notices have been issued, resulting in a total fine of NT$25.39 million (approximately RMB 5.78 million).

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