Smoking Kills One In Three Young Men In China

Two nationwide surveys have shown that one in three young men in China will die from smoking-related causes.

AsianScientist (Oct. 29, 2015) – One in three young men in China will eventually be killed by tobacco consumption unless a substantial proportion stop smoking, according to new research published in The Lancet.

Two-thirds of the young men in China start smoking mostly before the age of 20. The study, led by researchers from Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Center for Disease Control, has showed that around half of those who start smoking cigarettes as young men will eventually be killed by tobacco, unless they stop permanently.

The researchers conducted two large, nationwide studies, which are 15 years apart. They tracked the health consequences of smoking in a large group of people in China. The first study took place in the 1990s, and involved a quarter of a million men. The second study is ongoing, and involved half a million men and women.

The results showed that in China the annual number of tobacco deaths, mostly among men, had reached 1 million by 2010. If the current trends continues, it will be 2 million by 2030. Among Chinese women, however, smoking rates have plummeted and the risk of premature death from tobacco is low and falling.

In recent decades, there has been a large increase in cigarette smoking among young men, and the research showed the dire consequences are emerging. The proportion of all male deaths at ages 40-79 that were attributed to smoking has doubled, from about 10 percent in the early 1990s, to about 20 percent now.

In urban areas, this proportion is higher, at 25 percent, and is still rising. In rural areas it is currently lower, but is set to rise even more steeply than in cities, due to the high prevalence of smoking and low rate of cessation in rural China.

Conversely, the women of working age in China now smoke much less than the older generation. About ten percent of the women born in the 1930s smoked, but only about one percent of those born in the 1960s did so. Hence, overall female deaths caused by tobacco are decreasing. Less than one percent of deaths in women born since 1960 are due to tobacco smoking. Other studies, however, have showed that a recent increase in smoking among young women could eventually reverse this downward trend.

Professor Chen Zhengming from the University of Oxford, UK, the first author of the paper, said, “About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers, and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by this habit.”

However, an increasing proportion of smokers are choosing to stop, and the study results show that between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of smokers who had quit rose from three percent to nine percent. For smokers who stopped before developing any serious disease, after ten years of not smoking, their risk was similar to that of people who had never smoked.

According to the last author of the study, Professor Li Liming, from the Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China, “Without rapid, committed, and widespread action to reduce smoking levels China will face enormous numbers of premature deaths.”

The article can be found at: Chen et al. (2015) Contrasting Male and Female Trends in Tobacco-Attributed Mortality in China: Evidence from Successive Nationwide Prospective Cohort Studies.


Source: The Lancet; Photo: Fried Dough/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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