KOBE — Experts at an international symposium marking World No-Tobacco Day on Monday expressed concern over an increasing rate of young female smokers.

During the symposium organized by the World Health Organization’s Kobe Center, an official from New Zealand stressed the importance of creating a non-smoking norm in society.

“It is important to make smoke-free lifestyle fashionable,” said Gillian Durham, deputy director general of safety and regulation, and director of public health of New Zealand’s Health Ministry.

In Japan, for instance, while the rate of male smokers has decreased from about 80 percent in 1965 to 52.7 percent in 1997, smoking among women has increased. Women smokers in their 20s have doubled in the last 30 years to 21.3 percent in 1997, according to Japan’s Health Ministry.

Mei-Fen Chan, a health official from Singapore, which succeeded in reducing the smoking rate to 15 percent in 1998, said it is necessary to take various measures and approaches to fight smoking.

Suketami Tominaga, director of Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute in Nagoya, said that Japan’s high smoking rate can be attributed to the government’s lax attitude against implementing smoking controls and to the great availability of cigarettes through ubiquitous vending machines.

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