Adult smoking prevalence in Taiwan rapidly declined from 26.5% in 2005 to 20.0% in 2015. Nevertheless, future projections on smoking-attributable deaths and current per capita consumption do not paint an equally bright picture.
We used SimSmoke, a tobacco control simulation model to assess the impact of tax increases and other policies by predicting past and projecting over future decades smoking rates and smoking-attributable mortality.
The model accurately depicts the decline in smoking prevalence observed in Taiwan from 2000 to 2015. Nonetheless, under the ‘status quo’ scenario, smoking-attributable mortality is projected to continue growing, peaking at 26 602 annual deaths in 2039 and cumulative deaths >1 million by 2044. By comparing projections with current policies with a counterfactual scenario based on the 2000 policy levels, SimSmoke estimates that tobacco control in Taiwan has been able to reduce smoking prevalence by 30% in 2015 with 450 000 fewer smoking-attributable deaths by 2060. Modified scenarios show that doubling the retail price of cigarettes and fully implementing the remaining MPOWER measures would avert approximately 45 000 lives by 2040 and 130 000 by 2060.
Tobacco will be a leading cause of death in Taiwan for the coming decades, showing yet again the long-term consequences of smoking on public health. The MPOWER package, even if adopted at the highest level with a large tax increase, is unlikely to reduce smoking prevalence to the endgame goal of 5% in the next five decades.