China Smoking Crisis: Smoking To Cause One In Three Male Deaths By 2050

Toni Matthews - Author

Oct. 10 2015, Updated 1:14 p.m. ET

There’s currently a major smoking crisis in China, one that’s threatening to severely impact generations of men. What caused it? According to reports, there are a few factors driving the overwhelming popularity of smoking in the country, and the deadly consequences.

“I smoke to alleviate the tension,” said 32-year-old Wei Bin. The office worker explained to the Associated Press that work was often stressful. Smoking is a way that many young men choose to deal with the stress of work and other areas of their life. It’s a startlingly easy habit to form in a nation where tobacco is in high demand.

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“Our country does not provide good support for people who want to quit.”

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A recent study showed the devastating impact of a “smoking culture” in China. The British medical journal Lancetrecently published a report that finds that cigarette-related mortality rates in the Asian nation are due to skyrocket. The study found that based on current trends, smoking deaths were due to triple to 3 million a year by 2050 among Chinese men.

It didn’t matter if the young Chinese men, two-thirds of whom reportedly smoke, hail from the city or the countryside; smoking is a rising habit across the board. Rising with it are health problems and the increased potential for an early death. The sobering study found that of the young generation of men in China who smoke, nearly half of them are expected to die from it.

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CNN reports that the study was created by scientists “from Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Center for Disease Control.” The researchers spent upwards of 15 years carefully compiling information to draw a definite picture of where the Chinese smoking culture was leading its population. Now that China’s smoking crisis is international news, some expected that the government would step in to immediately fix the problem.

Unfortunately, matters concerning tobacco in China are notoriously complex. The Associate Press wrote that the nation relies heavily on the tobacco industry. It’s considered an important source of revenue. As such, the government has been reluctant to take a hardline stance against the tobacco industry.

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It’s an interesting contrast when you consider that the reality that China is currently facing was once very similar to life for Americans during the “golden age” of the tobacco industry in the 1950s. Smoking advertisements were everywhere — on television and in magazines. Adults and young adults treated smoking as a regular part of life. But the health crisis caused by tobacco products pushed the United States government to act.

The negative public view of smoking blossomed thanks to years of anti-smoking advertisements and readily available information about the dangers of smoking. Cigarette prices were raised to discourage people from buying cigarettes, and there are few public places where one is even allowed to smoke.

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Strong measures largely crippled the influence of America’s tobacco industry. However, time will tell if China ever reaches a level of crisis where it’s willing to do what it takes to tackle the smoking epidemic.

Should China ever decide to deal directly with its ongoing smoking crisis, there is some excellent news. Researchers who published the original study have stated that should China’s smokers decide to quit, it will actively improve their life spans. Such a claim makes sense given all the ways in which a person’s health improves immediately after they stop smoking.

The question now is if the smoking crisis has reached a point of no return. If so, it could have huge implications for China’s population growth over the next few generations.

[Image Credit: Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]


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