Chinese tobacco a veritable fifth column against anti-smoking efforts

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Many people may find it surprising to learn that China s 300 million smokers consume a third of the world s cigarettes. But then 60 percent of Chinese men smoke an average of 15 cigarettes per day. The result, according to the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung disease, is that smoking-related diseases cause one million Chinese deaths each year, and this number is projected to double by the 2020. In our country, the comparable figure is only 400,000 plus preventable deaths also an entirely unacceptable and tragic toll.

Professor Yang Gonghuan, deputy director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and lead author of a new report on the subject, believes that the infiltration of China s tobacco industry into the nation s tobacco control regulatory bodies has thwarted efforts to reduce smoking. Though China has placed health warnings on cigarette packs and raised taxes, Prof. Yang says, the tobacco companies have robustly opposed these efforts by, for instance, absorbing the increased tax without raising the consumer price of cigarettes.

That tobacco firms have foiled anti-smoking policies is not news to ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. If you substitute any other country for China in this story, the statement would remain valid the tobacco industry tries to undermine anti-smoking efforts wherever you are.

Sadly, the governments of these countries are dependent on the revenue obtained from cigarette sales. So, they re in cahoots in that sense, which is nothing new, agrees ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.