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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008 Jul-Aug;17(6):971-8. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2007.0621.

Gender differences in smoking behaviors in an Asian population.

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National Health Research Institute, Center for Health Policy Research and Development, Miaoli, Taiwan.



Gender-sensitive tobacco control policies are being challenged, and new directions are being sought because public health efforts have reduced cigarette consumption more substantially among men than among women. To better target women, it would help to identify the protective cultural factors that promote resiliency in women and discourage them from smoking. Whereas western cultures have generated a great deal of gender-specific research and programs on the prevention of smoking in women, Asian cultures have not. Taking a personal and sociocultural perspective, this study examines the effect of gender on smoking behaviors in Taiwan.


In a 2004 cross-sectional random-sampled interview survey, 827 adult men and 90 adult women smokers in Taiwan were queried about the time they began smoking, maintenance of their habits, and their readiness to change.


The male/female smoking rate ratio was 9.5 (45.7% vs. 4.8%). Men smoked significantly more cigarettes per day than women (18 vs. 11). We found Taiwanese women started smoking around 20 years old, much later than their western counterparts. We also found that whereas the smoking behavior of the men was very sensitive to social environment and structural factors, that of women revolved around their desire to control their weight and handle their emotions.


Differences in the smoking behavior of men and women are a result of a different sociocultural environment and the life trajectories and social circumstances embedded within it. Comprehensive tobacco control policies need to be tailored to not just smoking behavior alone or one population alone but to the determinants of smoking behavior in specific groups, for example, women. Even when targeting women, some effort may be needed on targeting women of different ethnicities, for instance, Asian women in whom the prevalence is increasing at alarming rates.

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