BEIJING - Cigarette-related deaths
in China will more than double by 2020 unless the government introduces
comprehensive measures to curtail smoking, the World Health Organisation said
A man receives laser treatment to help him stop smoking at a
healing centre in northern China's Tianjin municipality May 30, 2007.
Bekedam, the WHO's representative in China, said smoking was "socially and
economically devastating" for the country, which is the world's biggest producer
"The death toll from diseases associated with tobacco is about one million
Chinese annually, a figure that is expected to increase to 2.2 million per year
by 2020 if smoking rates remain unchanged," he said in a statement ahead of
World No Tobacco Day on Thursday.
China is responsible for one third of the worlds cigarette manufacturing
output and the government rakes in massive profits, as it runs a tobacco
"Fighting tobacco is not easy, especially when there is a state monopoly on
tobacco production," Bekedam said.
He urged authorities to raise tobacco taxes, ban cigarette advertising and
issue stronger warning labels on tobacco products. He also said there should be
an increase in smoke-free areas.
The government has banned smoking on public transport but it is still allowed
in many public places, including restaurants.
"China needs to implement comprehensive measures that will change peoples
behaviour and lead to fewer people smoking," Bekedam said.
He added that the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a "once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity" to change smokers' behaviour.
Olympic organisers are planning a smoke-free Games next year and officials
have announced that legislation imposing strict curbs on tobacco use at Olympic
sites will be announced on Thursday to coincide with World No Tobacco Day.
"China has committed to a smoke-free Olympics. Delivering on this will send a
powerful message and generate momentum for a sustained long-term campaign,"