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Quitting smoking saves both money, lives: Health Ministry

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) revealed yesterday that the cost of treatment for nicotine addiction is far less than the cost of continued smoking, especially when taking into account the proposed increases to local tobacco taxes.

According to the MHW, around 2,600 medical centers have aided 48,000 Taiwanese in their bids to quit smoking.

Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞), the director of the MHW's Health Promotion Administration (HPA), pointed out that proposals to increase the tobacco tax were unveiled last May, which resulted in a noticeable increase in the amount of patients seeking treatment to help kick the habit.

HPA officials said that it is very grateful to the tobacco companies that helped with their anti-smoking efforts, adding that the “revolution has not yet succeeded,” and the agency must strive to carry on with the plan.

Chiou also stated that in recent years, medications that help people to quit smoking were more expensive than packages of cigarettes. Ever since the implementation of the “second generation of the smoking cessation pilot program” in March 2012, people attempting to quit smoking have paid NT$313 to 2,600 clinics — employing 11,280 certified doctors — to aid in their quest, even in the most remote areas. This was a significant shift from previous years, she said.

Representatives from family medical centers, psychiatric hospitals, pediatric offices, etc. attended the HPA press conference yesterday, which emphasized that the experience of medical professionals, in addition to the willpower of the smokers themselves, is the key to quitting smoking.

Every medical center and hospital asks patients if they are interested in quitting smoking, and refers to an eight-week program that helps combat tobacco addiction. The government subsidizes two sessions of treatment every year for each patient, and one only has to pay NT$200 at most for medication fees each time.

Hong Ling-yu (洪淩鈺), the director of Community Medicine at Yonghe Cardinal Tien Hospital, pointed out that clinical research suggests for the best cessation results and effects, one should take anti-nicotine medication alone, or long-lasting nicotine medication in addition to some short-term medication.

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