Earlier today, a group of researchers released a truly incredible statistic: Unless a substantial portion of the male Chinese population quits smoking, one in three of them will eventually be killed by the habit.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that two-thirds of young men in China pick up smoking, mostly before age 20. Unless they quit for good, around half of those guys will eventually die from tobacco.
“Without rapid, committed, and widespread action to reduce smoking levels, China will face enormous numbers of premature deaths,” said Liming Li, a professor at the Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing who helped lead the analysis.
The results of the study show that the annual number of tobacco-related deaths in China had reached a million by 2010 and could reach 2 million by 2030.
The numbers come from two large, nationally representative studies conducted 15 years apart. The first was in the 1990s and involved a quarter of a million men. The second one is ongoing and involves half a million men and women.
China remains the biggest tobacco producer and consumer in the world with over 300 million smokers. More than one million Chinese die from smoking-related diseases every year and 100,000 of the deaths are caused by passive smoking every year. The smoking rate among Chinese women is plummeting, but the same can not be said for their male counterparts.
To curb this national health crisis, China raised the cigarette tax in May from five to 11 percent. The measure is in line with recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that 13 million smoking-related deaths can be avoided by 2050 if the country decides to adopt the right policies.
Still, China has a long way to go. The price of cigarettes in the country remains relatively affordable, with some brands going for just 10 RMB a pack. The current tax rate is still below the recommended rate by the WHO.
Back in 2002, China signed the WHO Framework Convention Tobacco Control to curb tobacco supply and consumption, at which time cigarette production was at 1.75 trillion per year in the country. A WHO assessment report from 2012 showed, however, that the number had actually doubled to 2.58 trillion since the FCTC was signed.
The WHO also recently released a terrifying info-graphic showing that the air quality in a room full of smokers is actually worse than Beijing’s noxious air on a hazardous day.
This summer, Beijing instituted China’s toughest indoor smoking ban and it has been… let’s say partially effective.
To save their lives in the future, students in Beijing are now being taught three government-recommended hand gestures meant to alert nearby strangers to stop smoking.