News / Asia

Report: Annual Tobacco Deaths in China Could Top 3.5 Million by 2030

A man blows out cigarette smoke outside a church in Beijing, (File 2010)
A man blows out cigarette smoke outside a church in Beijing, (File 2010)

An international panel of health experts is warning that deaths from cigarette smoking in China will likely triple in the next two decades, killing some 3.5 million people annually by 2030.

The report, titled "Tobacco Control and China's Future," was released Thursday, days before a World Health Organization deadline for China to ban smoking in public indoor venues. The document is jointly authored by global economists, scientists and the tobacco branch of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The forecast for 2030 predicts smoking-related illnesses in China will account for 25 percent of all deaths, in a country where 60 percent of adult males smoke. Comparable data shows about 20 percent of Americans using tobacco products.

The document strongly criticizes the Beijing government for failing to control tobacco use, and points out that the same government agency in charge of maximizing tobacco production is also responsible for controlling tobacco use.

There is no evidence that China will meet Sunday's WHO deadline, one of several conditions imposed when it was admitted to the global health organization five years ago.

The report notes that cigarette smoking is deeply entrenched in Chinese culture. It also says efforts to reduce smoking are complicated by the importance of tax revenues from the tobacco industry and by cigarette companies' heavy spending on social programs.

The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control has been quoted as saying 52 tobacco companies donated to or sponsored 79 public welfare activities in 40 cities and counties during the last four months of 2009.

Despite those contributions, Thursday's report argues that the social costs of smoking in China greatly outweigh the benefits. The authors balance health care and lost-labor costs against the industry's social and salary contributions, and come up with a net loss to society of more than $9 billion a year.

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