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2010 China Tobacco Control Report- Urgency of China's Tobacco Control

Wang Jun, a resident in Tai'an, east China's Shandong Province, has been smoking for more than 20 years. In April 2010, his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the news hit the chain-smoking Wang like a thunderbolt.

He realized his smoking habit was at least partially responsible.

"I know my wife's cancer is closely related to my second-hand smoke," Wang said.

When China signed on to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2006, it made a pledge to halt smoking in indoor public places and workplaces by January 9, 2011.

The 2010 China Tobacco Control Report, published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, states that China produced nearly 2.4 trillion cigarettes in 2010, which contributed more than 7 percent of the nation's annual total tax income, yet more than one million died of tobacco-related diseases, accounting for 13 percent of the total 9.43 million of deaths in 2010.

China has more than 300 million smokers, and those smokers are not only damaging their own health. Second-hand smoke attacks about 740 million people, including 180 million children and teenagers, according to the 2011 China Tobacco Control Report released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) Thursday in Beijing.

More than one million people die every year from smoking-related diseases, and more than 100,000 of those cases can be traced back to second-hand smoke, the report said.

Despite his wife's cancer, Wang persists in the deadly habit, only now, he smokes outside so he won't further affect his 43-year-old wife.


China's 12th Five-Year Plan endeavors to increase the average life expectancy one year, to 74.5 years. The government has also promised to ban smoking in public places "in an all-around manner" - the first time an anti-smoking measure has been included in its five-year plan.

Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Office of the China CDC, said cancer has become the number one cause of death, as lung cancer and coronary heart disease are afflicting young adults.

More than 7,000 chemicals have been discovered in tobacco smoke, of which 250 are harmful, and 70 may cause cancer, research has shown.

"About 25 percent of men will die of smoking-related disease," Jiang added.

World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said last year that tobacco use can kill in so many ways that it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world.

According to the tobacco-control report, secondhand smoke can be lethal for non-smokers, as it causes cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases, and increases the risk of heart disease by 25-30 percent and lung cancer 20-30 percent.

Second-hand smoke also leads to the sudden death of newborns, the report said.

Hu Angang, director of the Center for China Studies at Tsinghua University, said that about 2.4 trillion yuan of economic burden in the year of 2005 was caused by tobacco-related diseases, accounting for 13.1 percent of the annual GDP.


Voluntary smoking controls have proved ineffective, with laws and regulations being the only effective way of curbing the habit, according to the report.

Although the government has adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), implementation is slow largely due to the interference of the tobacco industry, health experts said.

"Voluntary smoking control was a compromise advocated by the tobacco industry, which was under pressure of public criticism at the time," said Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the China CDC.

A local draft law that bans indoor smoking in public areas was passed on Thursday in Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province, which is considered to be an important milestone in reducing the harm caused by second-hand smoke.

Indoor smoking control regulations in Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanchang, Shenzhen and Shenyang are also being discussed or awaiting a vote.

"Everyone is privileged to protect oneself from being harmed by second-hand smoke, which is the aim of legislation," said Li Wei, an official with Tianjin Centers for Diseases Control (Tianjin CDC) and Prevention. "The tobacco-control law never deprives the right of smoking."

In February, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) ordered film and TV studios to restrict smoking scenes and to ban shots showing tobacco brands or minors in scenes while others are smoking.

Also in March, a revised regulation on health management in public places issued by the Ministry of Health said smoking would be banned in enclosed public locations, which took effect on May 1.

Yang Gonghuan, a tobacco-control expert and the deputy director of the China CDC, said government policy is one but not the only important part of tobacco-control initiatives.

A survey conducted by the China CDC shows less than 25 percent of the population have a thorough knowledge of the harm posed by smoking and second-hand smoke.

"Raising public awareness and urging them to join in tobacco-control efforts remains the key to success." Yang said. 

Source: Xinhua.net