Category Archives: China

Study: One in three men in China will die from smoking


Devastating study in the Lancet this month stating that unless smoking rates are cut in China, one-third of men in that country will die from tobacco-related disease.

Something about this article that jumped out at me. China obviously has the highest population of any nation on the planet — 1.3 billion. It also has a very high — and still growing — smoking rate.

There is an oft-quoted figure — 440,000 — this is the number of deaths the CDC and other agencies state are caused by tobacco in the United States. Some people dispute the number (people on the old smokers’ rights forums, mostly), but I believe it’s an absolutely solid number.

Well, according to the Lancet study, smoking today kills over 1 million Chinese people every year. So, just between China and the U.S., 1.44 million people a year are dying as a result of tobacco. That’s basically the entire state of Hawaii being wiped out on an annual basis.

More shockingly, that Chinese figure is expected to double to 2 million people a year by 2030.

The smoking rate is extremely high in China, especially among men. According to this study, two-thirds of Chinese men take up smoking. This study points out that since the tobacco industry in China is a government-controlled monopoly, this has a profound effect on Chinese policies regarding tobacco (though, surprisingly enough China has been implementing public smoking bans and attempting to crack down on tobacco marketing.).

From an article in Mother Jones:

he high smoking rates are fueled by low prices. “Over the past 20 years, tobacco deaths have been decreasing in Western countries, partly because of price increases,” said Richard Peto, a co-author of the study. “For China, a substantial increase in cigarette prices could save tens of millions of lives.” Pervasive myths don’t help either, including beliefs that Asians are less susceptible to tobacco’s effects and smoking is easy to quit. The World Health Organization estimates that only a quarter of Chinese adults have a “comprehensive understanding” of smoking’s hazards.

This lack of awareness is hardly surprising when you look into who’s selling the cigarettes: An estimated 98 percent of the Chinese cigarette market is controlled by China National Tobacco Corporation, a government-owned conglomerate that runs more than 160 cigarette brands. According to a Bloomberg Business feature on the topic, the industry accounts for 7 percent of the country’s revenue each year and employs roughly 500,000 people. In 2013, the company manufactured 2.25 trillion cigarettes. (Philip Morris International, the second-largest producer, manufactured 880 billion.)

“The extent to which the government is interlocked with the fortunes of China National might best be described by the company’s presence in schools,” writes Bloomberg’s Andrew Martin. “Slogans over the entrances to sponsored elementary schools read, ‘Genius comes from hard work. Tobacco helps you become talented.'”


China attempting to crack down on cigarette marketing


Another interesting story … the power of a world economic dynamo …telling Big Tobacco and trying to tell its own tobacco monopoly to “Piss off.”

China, the No. 1 tobacco consumer market in the world, yes, far, far beyond the U.S. (300 million Chinese smokers compared to 45 million Americans), is cracking down on cigarette marketing.

The Chinese government announced strict new rules about tobacco marketing this week. From now on, tobacco ads are banned in mass media, outdoors and public areas and transportation. I assume this means no tobacco ads on TV, on buses or cabs or on billboards.

What’s interesting about this move is that China has a monopoly on its tobacco market. Western Big Tobacco companies such as Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris only control 1 percent to 2 percent of the market (I covered this years ago. Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Imperial Tobacco attempted to make serious inroads into China, but the Chinese weren’t stupid and rebuffed them. They realize there is too much money to be simply given away to non-Chinese corporations to allow that.). The rest of the market is controlled by a Chinese state agency. So you have one Chinese state agency more or less facing off against another.

Holy crap, according to this Reuters article, the Chinese tobacco administration control 7 percent to 10 percent of the revenue in China — as much as $127 billion a year (U.S.).

The whole thrust of this is to try and crack down on tobacco companies marketing to kids. So, China is facing some of the same marketing issues seen in the West during the past 50 or so years.

From the Reuters story:

In an interview, Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he expected the government to further hike taxes on tobacco, since teenaged smokers are more price-sensitive.

“We believe that hiking prices will impact minors in large part because they don’t have their own income,” he added.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Beijing ban on smoking working … mostly

BEIJING, CHINA-AUGUST 14 :A Chinese woman smokes a cigarette inside a disco in Beijing's Sanlitun night club district which are packed with foreigners in town to enjoy the Olympics, on August 14, 2008 in Beijing, China. The well known Sanlitun area has been cleaned up prior to the Olympic games and thrives with young people looking for a party.  (Photo Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA-AUGUST 14 :A Chinese woman smokes a cigarette inside a disco in Beijing’s Sanlitun night club district which are packed with foreigners in town to enjoy the Olympics, on August 14, 2008 in Beijing, China. The well known Sanlitun area has been cleaned up prior to the Olympic games and thrives with young people looking for a party. (Photo Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Here is a story from (first time I’ve used a story from this site) about Beijing’s (latest) two-month-old indoor smoking ban.

China is notoriously lax about enforcing any sort of environmental or public-health laws (this is why you don’t want to buy dog treats made in China), but according to this article, Beijing is serious about cracking down on smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants. It is a $32 fine for smokers and up to a $1,600 fine for businesses that allow it. After two months, the city has collected $16,000 in fines.


Beijing has actually attempted a smoking ban, but dropped it. And several other cities in China have had unsuccessful smoking bans. From the story:

The ban’s early success — one month after it began, the Beijing Association on Tobacco Control described the short-term results as “satisfactory” — is noteworthy. Environmental or health-friendly policies are often introduced to great fanfare in China, usually accompanied by amiable mantras like “Healthy City,” only to quietly fade due to lack of political will or commercial incentive.

When it comes to smoking, Chinese cities have mostlyproven willing to stub out only while international audiences are watching. What starts as erratic enforcement soon peters out, and the country light back up as soon as the world turns away. Take Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong, whichexperimented with an ill-fated smoking crackdown in 2010, and has been doing so on-and-off, and without success, since 1995. Then there’s financial capital Shanghai, which made a similarly short-lived effortprior to its World Expo in 2010, themed “Better Life, Better City.” Beijing has also tried, with at least one half-hearted effort targeting large restaurants during the 2008 Olympics. That effectively ended when the foreign press went home.

The writer, based in Beijing, adds that he has personally witnessed a decrease in indoor smoking, including tobacco “fiends” standing outside a 24-hour club notorious for its “anything goes atmosphere.” The author stated that smoking was so ubiquitous in China as recently as 2009 — seeing smoking in hospital rooms, etc. — that he didn’t believe it would be possible for any smoking ban to have an effect.

Beijing may be taking steps to reduce smoking, but the city still struggles with its infamous horrendous smog. The smog may be one reason the capital has finally decided to become serious about a smoking ban, but at the same time, it is a small step in making Beijing a more healthy place.

From the article:

But what may prove more effective than the threat of a financial penalty is the growing realization that Beijing, already fending off notorious pollution, can no longer afford to carry the public-health burden of a citywide smoking habit as well.

… Smoking may eventually come to be viewed as an oddly indulgent habit in a city whose air is already persistently hostile to one’s health. Indeed, an unusual spate of recent thunderstorms, coupled with low winds, has left a spectral gloom over the city this summer, a reminder of greater problems yet to be resolved. In this clammy atmosphere, young commuters, lining up at bus stops, seem to cough, hawk, and grumble like terminal smokers. The capital may be ready to finally give up its favorite bad habit, but it has plenty of others still to kick.


Can China really stop 350 million people from smoking?

Deng Xiaoping, “Paramount Leader” of China 1982-1987

Interesting read from NBC about China getting serious about cracking down on smoking.

China is the biggest smoking country on the planet with 350 million smokers (compared to about 45 million in the U.S.). According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million people in China die every year from smoking-related illnesses. WHO also estimates 3 million Chinese will die every year from smoking-related diseases by 2050.

A high level Chinese committee announced last week that it plans to ban smoking in public places by the end of 2014. (China also recently banned public officials from smoking in public).

I have no idea how strictly such a ban would be enforced. The state tobacco company in China, called China National Tobacco Corporation, grossed an incredible $19 billion last year in tobacco sales (making it the largest tobacco company in the world, not Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds or BAT.) Is China really looking to put a dent in its own $19 billion business? (By the same token, why would state governments want to really cut smoking rates when they get so many revenues from cigarette taxes? It’s a conundrum.)

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye on this developing story. See if China is really serious about a smoking ban.


China orders government officials to stop smoking in public

China Smoking

Got this interesting article from the Epoch Times, a website by Chinese dissidents about China. It’s become home to a lot of HuffingtonPost refugees who are understandably pissed off about having to use their real names to comment on HP.

I did a quick search on Epoch Times, and they have a ton of articles about smoking. I’m linking to two of them today (well, because I hate college football.). Anyway, the upper echelon of the Communist Party central committee in China has ordered public officials to stop smoking in public. Here’s the new rules:

Officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, sports venues, on public transport or any other places where smoking is banned, or to smoke or offer cigarettes when performing official duties, the official Xinhua News said. They also cannot use public funds to buy cigarettes, and within Communist Party or government offices tobacco products cannot be sold nor adverts displayed.

This is likely a major breakthrough. For the first time, very high-level attention and support is being given to anti-tobacco efforts,” said Ray Yip, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s China program. The foundation has been working on smoking cessation campaigns in the country.

 China smokes more cigarettes than any nation on the Earth (more than 300 million Chinese smoke in a nation of 1.3 billion), and this might be the first step in a public smoking ban in that country. Don’t look for China to crack down on smoking entirely, since the cigarette industry is a state-run monopoly (U.S. Big Tobacco has tried to make inroads into China, but have been seriously rebuffed — Big Tobacco has since given more of its attention to India and Africa.)

According to Epoch Times:

Smoking, which is linked to an average annual death toll of 1.4 million people in China in recent years, is one of the greatest health threats the country faces, government statistics show. The annual number of cigarettes sold in the country increased by 50 percent to 2.52 trillion in 2012 compared with 10 years earlier, according to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, which is overseen by health authorities.


So interesting first step to try and curb smoking in China. I’ll peruse Epoch Times from time to time to see what else they offer on the issue.