Social change and marketing campaigns by tobacco companies have been blamed for a 45 percent increase in the number of female smokers in the last eight years, a media report said Monday.
Figures from Hong Kong's census and statistics department show the number of women smokers jumped from 78,800 in 1998 to 114,300 last year, the South China Morning Post said.
By comparison, the number of males smoking fell six percent from 726,300 to 678,900 in the same period.
Overall, the number of people smoking fell 15 percent from 805,100 in 1998 to 793,200 last year, government statistics showed. This is equal to about 12 percent of Hong Kong's total population.
But the figures showed the number of young people taking up smoking is still relatively high, although down from the peak in 2000.
Last year, there were 15,700 smokers between 15 and 19, up 33 percent compared with the 11,800 smokers reported in the same age group in 1998. But this was down from the 20,600 young smokers recorded in 2000.
Commenting on the results, City University associate professor Dennis Wong Sing-wing said the increase in the number of women smokers reflected a woman's desire to be equal with men.
He said: "They think what men can do, women should also be able to do."
Wong also said tobacco firms targeted women in marketing campaigns by using slimmer cigarettes, feminine packaging and the belief that women can smoke "stylishly".