China’s Tobacco Industry Wields Huge Power

From Didi Kirsten Tatlow in the New York Times:

China has the world’s largest population, so it easily lends itself to superlatives. Even so, its 350 million smokers and the sheer scale of its tobacco industry overshadow others. “The China C.D.C. likes to point out that the Chinese tobacco industry is bigger than the next seven countries combined, or maybe six,” said Susan Lawrence, head of China programs at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in Washington. “It’s massive.”

The other striking thing is that it is wholly state-owned, delivering enormous profit to the government.

The figures are overwhelming. China manufactures 2.3 trillion cigarettes per year, inhaling most of them itself. About 57 percent of men smoke, though just 3 percent to 4 percent of women.

Six out of 10 doctors and professors smoke — at work, too, according to Li Xinhua, a tobacco control official at the Ministry of Health. The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco kills a million Chinese yearly and that the figure will double by 2020. Lung cancer is up 465 percent since 1980 and accounts for nearly a quarter of cancer deaths. Smoking is on the rise, as elsewhere in the developing world.

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