Tobacco’s firm grasp on young men in China

Tobacco’s firm grasp on young men in China

According to recent research published in The Lancet Medical Journal, smoking in China has become an epidemic that’s killing over a million men each year.


Tobacco is a huge industry in China, as the country is the biggest manufacturer and consumer of cigarettes. The study’s researchers estimated that smoking will kill two million Chinese citizens in 2030, if the country’s government doesn’t react to this growing problem. Chinese women are smoking less than previous generations, but the number of young men that use tobacco is rising at rapid rates.    


“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 their habit,” said the study’s co-author Zhengming Chen.     


Co-author of the study, Richard Peto, believes that raising cigarette prices by a “substantial” amount would save millions of lives in China. Peto said that western countries have reduced the number of tobacco related deaths for the past 20 years with price hikes.


While smoking is on the rise among young men in China, less youths are picking up the habit in the United States. A 2014 University of Michigan survey found that 8 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders smoked cigarettes, which was 20 percent higher in 1997.



The U.S. anti-smoking organization Truth Initiative has been heavily targeting teens and college students with their advertisements, which may have been a big factor in the decreasing number of young smokers. Their “Finish It” campaign reached over 1.7 million U.S. teens last year with the message of putting an end to smoking. Increasing anti-smoking campaigns that target young audiences in China could help prevent this rapidly growing problem.     


Truth Initiative member Nicole Stephens believes that this generation can put an end to tobacco use by reaching out to teens. “I’ve been surprised at how open teens are to talking about cigarettes and their experiences with tobacco,” said Stephens. “We get thanked for being there by someone who has lost someone to a tobacco-related disease.”   


What can China do to help reduce tobacco use? Would anti-smoking campaigns be enough to drastically decrease the number of Chinese smokers? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.


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