According to new research published in The Lancet, two-thirds of the young men in China start to smoke, mostly before age 20. The study, led by researchers from Oxford University, UK, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control, shows that around half of those who start smoking cigarettes as young men will eventually be killed by tobacco, unless they stop permanently. 

 © thodonal - Fotolia.com
© thodonal – Fotolia.com

Male deaths double whilst deaths among women plummet

The researchers conducted two large, nationally representative studies 15 years apart, which involved three-quarters of a million men and women.  According to the research, male deaths attributed to smoking have more than doubled since 1990, whilst smoking rates and deaths among women have plummeted.

Professor Zhengming Chen from the University of Oxford, UK, a study co-author, says: “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.”

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Rise in smokers who choose to quit

However, an increasing proportion of smokers are choosing to stop, and the study results show that between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of smokers who had quit rose from 3% to 9%. For smokers who stopped before developing any serious disease, after ten years of not smoking their risk was similar to that of people who had never smoked.

According to study co-author Professor Liming Li, from the Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China, “Without rapid, committed, and widespread action to reduce smoking levels China will face enormous numbers of premature deaths.”

© Aleksandr Ugorenkov - Fotolia.com
© Aleksandr Ugorenkov – Fotolia.com

Increase in cigarette price could save millions of deaths

Co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, UK, said “Over the past 20 years tobacco deaths have been decreasing in Western countries, partly because of price increases. For China, a substantial increase in cigarette prices could save tens of millions of lives.”

Smoking levels decreasing in South Africa

In South Africa, smoking levels have decreased by 26% since 1993.  This is largely due to rising prices, and our strict legislation with regard to the marketing and use of tobacco products.  Many first-world developed countries have set similar legislation in place.

Of concern now, though, is that the ‘Big Tobacco’ conglomerates have moved on to target third-world and developing countries in order to maintain the ‘health’ of their multinational corporations.

For full Article and Comment, see: http://press.thelancet.com/ChinaSmoking.pdf

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