Taiwan govt urged to ban flavored cigarettes

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The John Tung Foundation (JTF, 董氏基金會) yesterday called for the government to ban flavored cigarettes in Taiwan as the variety of flavors encourages more people to smoke.

According to the foundation, it has already received four complaints of cigarette retailers employing salesgirls selling mint-flavored cigarettes outside of nightclubs, charging only NT$90 (S$4.00) for two packs.

Ordinary cigarettes sold in convenience stores in Taiwan are priced at an average NT$80 to NT$90 per pack.

The JTF continued to state that flavors including chocolate, mint, floral and fruit are all considered as "flavored cigarettes," and that previous research has shown flavored cigarettes to be more toxic than ordinary cigarettes.

It would be difficult for flavored-cigarette smokers to quit the habit once they are addicted than it would be for usual smokers, said the JTF, which also called for the government to amend the laws regarding a ban on smoking flavored cigarettes in Taiwan.

Cigarette retailers should also be punished for selling flavored cigarettes, the JTF added.

Among all cigarette flavors, mint is most likely to induce the heaviest of addictions and are therefore the hardest to quit, said Taiwan Adventist Hospital physician Wu Hsien-lin (吳憲林).

"Flavoring the cigarettes is just a way for the cigarette manufacturers to sell more.

Scientific reports in other nations have also pointed out that the higher cigarette prices are, the less people are affected with lung cancer; this indicates a connection between smoking and getting lung cancer.

The government should ban the cigarette manufacturers and retailers from promoting flavored cigarettes," said Wu.

The Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act states that any sort of tobacco product advertisement - including any form of commercial advertisements, promotions, recommendations or actions, whose direct or indirect purposes or effects are to market or promote tobacco use to unspecified consumers - is illegal, and having salesgirls selling flavored cigarettes may land the manufacturers with fines of NT$5 million to NT$25 million, said the JTF.

According to JTF official Lin Ching-li, the United States' "Tobacco Free Kids" campaign released a report stating that cigarette manufacturers usually add more than the normal amount of sugar, nicotine and ammonia in flavored cigarettes, ingredients that would lessen the unpleasantness of smoking and allows the body to absorb nicotine at a faster speed.

"The flavored cigarettes are more toxic than those produced 50 years ago," said Lin.

Imported cigarettes should be taxed as much as NT$35 per pack, with additional profits going to the retailers as well, said Lin.

"If the manufacturers are able to sell two packs at NT$90, it may be because they want to start young people on the habit of smoking before reaping the profits in the years after as they are unable to quit," said Lin.