Annual tobacco-related deaths in China could triple by 2030 without drastic steps to kick the nation's habit, said a report that blamed the Chinese cigarette industry for blocking anti-smoking efforts.
By 2030, over 3.5 million Chinese could die each year from smoking-related illnesses, compared with 1.2 million deaths in 2005, according to "Tobacco Control and the Future of China", a joint report by Chinese and foreign experts.
The report, said China would almost certainly miss a deadline to implement an indoor ban on smoking, a pledge made when China became a party to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2006.
Under the framework, China agreed to enact national legislation banning indoor smoking by this year.
No ban yet
However, no such ban has been put in place and smokers in China continue to light up freely in restaurants and office buildings.
"The tobacco industry has become the largest 'health-hazard' industry," said the report, sponsored by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Although it is a major 'taxpayer,' the industry is generating a much greater social burden," it said.
China is now the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer and tobacco is the country's top killer, the report said.
Cigarette industry interest groups have seriously undermined anti-smoking efforts and are a key barrier to effective tobacco controls, it said.
An arrangement in which China's tobacco monopoly acts as the lead entity in implementing the 2006 tobacco control framework effectively allows the industry to use government authority to promote cigarette sales and impede adoption of anti-smoking policies and laws, it added.
(Sapa, January 2011)