A medical study published in The Lancet medical journal is warning that a third of all Chinese men under the age of 20 will die prematurely if they do not stop smoking.
Based on two nationwide studies conducted 15 years apart, and involving hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens, the studies found that two-thirds of Chinese men start to smoke before their 20th birthday. Of those men, half of them will die from smoking-related illnesses.
Around one million Chinese died from smoking in 2010. However, the researchers warn this number could double by 2030 if the trend continues. Interestingly, it is Chinese men who are most at risk. More than half of all Chinese men smoke, while only around two percent of Chinese women do.
The studies, conducted by The University of Oxford, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control claim that the trend can easily be reversed, provided Chinese men quit smoking: “The key to avoiding this huge wave of deaths is cessation, and if you are a young man, don’t start,” said co-author Richard Peto of Oxford University.
Several Chinese cities have come out in favor of public smoking bans, such as Beijing. Moreover, health professionals and government officials have been banned from smoking; even actors have been banned from smoking on television and films. However, most Chinese smokers remain reluctant to give up the habit themselves.
Chinese netizen reaction to the Lancet report was largely muted. One person wrote, “If it’s not smoking, then it’s the smog that will kill me. Which to pick?” Another person said, “People who smoke will all die, but then people who don’t smoke will die just the same.”
The World Health Organization says smoking kills 50 percent of smokers, directly resulting in five million deaths every year around the globe.