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.'”