January 7, 2011

Smoking Deaths In China To Triple By 2030

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an impending increase of tobacco-related deaths among Chinese if strong steps are not implemented. 3.5 million Chinese are expected to succumb to cancer, emphysema and other smoking hazards by 2030.

The report, "Tobacco Control and the Future of China", was officially released on Thursday and said China would almost certainly miss a January 9 deadline to impose an indoor ban on smoking. China, the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, pledged to enact the ban when it became a party to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) five years ago.

"Medical costs and labor losses caused by smoking are increasing year by year and at an ever-faster rate," the report said.

The 3.5 million estimated deaths reveal a sharp increase from the 1.2 million deaths reported in 2005 by a joint effort of Chinese and foreign medical experts. Tobacco is the country's top killer, and smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke result in a huge medical and social cost, the report continues.

Smoking is a widely accepted norm in Chinese society, with the offering of cigarette a common gesture of greeting. As a result, the report said, an estimated 738 million Chinese are exposed to second-hand smoke, including 182 million children.

The report also called for the establishment of a high-level tobacco control bureau to implement rigorous anti-smoking activities and for the government to discourage smoking by hiking cigarette taxes and other market measures. China's tobacco monopoly acts as the lead entity in implementing the tobacco control framework, which effectively allows it to impede adoption of anti-smoking policies and laws, it added.

It singled out the Chinese cigarette industry for particular blame, saying it had seriously undermined anti-smoking efforts and was a key barrier to effective tobacco controls, it said.

"The tobacco industry has become the largest "Ëœhealth-hazard' industry," said the report. "Although it is a major taxpayer, the industry is generating a much greater social burden."


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