Dispatch: The Smoking & The Smoke-Less

Women in China may disappear in a puff of smoke, literally. Out of the current 350 million smokers in China, 4 percent are female, but that figure is growing rapidly. According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of women will be smokers worldwide by 2025, as compared to the present rate of 12 percent. The new smoking trend in China is partially attributed to the nation’s recent affluence and rapid economic and social change, which has allowed women to become more culturally and financially independent.

China is also home to the world’s biggest consumer and producer of cigarettes, and since its largest tobacco company is state-owned, the rise in smoking rates is not surprising. “Smoking in China has dramatically increased given the free rein of cigarette companies there, as well as the striking societal changes they have undergone. In our country, smoking is over-represented in lower socioeconomic strata, but in China it appears to be the opposite, and perhaps smoking symbolizes success for Chinese women,” observes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “And of course there are few or no regulations against smoking there, and aggressive proselytizing by cigarette companies which is not allowed in the U.S.”

Growing teens in China would be wise to read the ACSH booklet on the subject or Jane Brody’s touching New York Times article in which she describes the death of her husband due to cigarette-related disease.

“If you never start, you’ll never have to quit,” is Brody’s resounding and accurate message; however, Dr. Ross does have one bone to pick with her. “Unfortunately, nowhere in her column does she mention smokeless tobacco products or other harm reduction strategies to help smokers quit,” Dr. Ross says. “We shouldn’t be complacent with the poor success rates of currently approved smoking cessation aids. Though Ms. Brody does cite Chantix as an option to help smokers quit, she fails to point out the success of snus as evidenced by Swedish and Norwegian data.”