BEIJING — Secondhand smoke causes more than 100,000 deaths in China annually, the WHO has said as it called on the world’s largest tobacco consuming nation to enact a national tobacco control law.
According to joint report by WHO, WTO, International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDCP), around one million people die from tobacco-related illnesses in China annually and if uncurbed the number could rise to some three million by 2050.
Chinese citizens’ exposure to secondhand smoke is extraordinarily high, with 740 million non-smokers in China — including 182 million children — being exposed to secondhand smoke at least once a day in a typical week, the report said.
“China is unfortunately a world leader in second-hand smoke exposure: among the countries we work in, China has the highest rate of smoking in workplaces and homes, and among the highest rates in restaurants and bars,” said Geoffrey T Fong, principal investigator of the ITC project.
When comprehensive smoking bans are effectively implemented and supported, indoor smoking virtually disappears Fong said, underlining China’s need to enact a law.
According to a recent study, cigarette smoking would kill about two million Chinese in 2030, double the 2010 toll and warned of a “growing epidemic of premature death” in China.
On current trends, one in three young Chinese men will be killed by tobacco, the team wrote in The Lancet medical journal.
Among women, though, there were fewer smokers and fewer deaths.
“About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by their habit,” said the article’s co-author Zhengming Chen from Oxford University.
Referring to the WHO study Bernhard Schwartlander, WHO representative in China, said the report demonstrated the urgent importance of a national smoke-free law.
The report recognised Beijing’s efforts after they adopted the strongest smoke-free law in China, which requires all indoor places to be 100 per cent smoke-free.
The law sets an excellent precedent for other Chinese cities, it said.
“We need stronger laws, effective enforcement and mass education campaigns to tell people about the dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke,” said Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director CCDCP.
Evidence from other countries shows that support will continue to grow after implementation of strong national smoke-free law, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China is the world’s largest tobacco producing and consuming country, with more than 350 million smokers.
Yet only a few provinces and cities have enacted local legislation on public smoking bans, and no special law has been adopted at the national level.