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Cigarette smoking in China

The Chinese government have embarked on an active campaign to reduce the incidence of smoking in China.  About 1.2 million Chinese die annually from smoking-related and another 100,000 die from the effects of passive smoking.  This paper, co-written with Ms. Bao Jia a student at Peking University, examines some of the main policy issues.   The case for further action to combat smoking in developed countries such as Australia is controversial since there is a high public awareness both of the health consequences of smoking and of the dangers of passive smoking.  That is less true in China where smoking has far greater social acceptability and where there remains a pervasive ignorance of its health consequences.  Furthermore the secondary tobacco smoke issue is a major concern in China since smokers consume their products in homes and restaurants without the types of understanding that exists elsewhere.

4 comments to Cigarette smoking in China

  • John Mashey

    Interesting, but I’d suggest that prospects for improvement might be pretty bad.
    1) The US varies widely by state:
    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2010/09/14/us-smoking-rates-by-state
    The two lowest are Utah 9.8% adults (Mormon), and California 12.9% (which has long had fierce anti-smoking campaigns).
    Tobacco-producing states tend to have high smoking rates.
    http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Kentucky/Publications/Pamphlets/tobacco06.pdf

    With tobacco as very big business In China, that suggests difficulty.

    2) Still, overall rate is 20+% for US, many years since 1964 Surgeon’s General report, so that multiple generations of people started smoking since then.

    3) Tobacco companies have long known that to get people really addicted, most have to be gotten young, say 13-18, while brains are still developing.
    http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/eyn18c00/pdf The Importance of Younger Adults.
    I wonder how those numbers compare to China.

    4) So, the really interesting questions aren’t so much around secondhand smoke, cessation, etc, etc … but on the dynamics of childhood smoking and efforts to control that, which cigarette companies know are vital to evade. That might be a good research topic, beyond the material already in your paper.
    Another interesting metric is smoking by doctors. Although I’ve lost track of it, I recall seeing that in US, after teh SG Report, there was a sharp drop in smoking by doctors, a leading indicator.

  • hc

    Hi John

    US (and Australian) rates are low relative to China because of the decline that began with anti-smoking efforts in the 1960s. China still has a culture where smoking is socially acceptable, even desirable.

    Smoking by doctors in China is high – an indication of the information asymmetry issues.

    I am fairly optimistic about China. There are pressures from local governments but the anti-smoking message has really taken off because of central government actions. Many fewer young males smoke at least in the cities.

    As I mention age of initiating smoking is a key variable of policy interest – I agree – and China needs to do more to get good data on this.

  • John Mashey

    Yes … I mention the doctors as they seemed to be leading indicator in US, I don’t know about Aus.
    it is encouraging that the young male segment is smoking less, and the reason that I poke at the regional issue is the big variation in US per state.
    of course, at some point food pressures may well make tobacco growing less preferable.

    Finally, one wonders how this interacts with the demographics, i.e., this generation with huge excess of young males.

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