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China's Addiction to Smoking

WHO said the country's smoking epidemic is "as serious as SARS." Meanwhile, Egypt launches an ambitious campaign to curb smoking through higher tobacco taxes and an indoor smoking ban.
August 18, 2010

BEIJING - More than half of all Chinese men smoke, according to new data from China��s center for disease control, AFP reports.

"China��s longstanding high prevalence of tobacco addiction deserves the same level of concern as an outbreak of SARS or H1N1," said Michael O��Leary, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in China. "Chronic conditions now constitute the lion's share of the burden of disease in China, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease."

A total of 301 million adults currently smoke cigarettes, a decline from the previous 350 million number. The survey discovered that 70 percent of nonsmoking adults received second-hand smoke exposure during a typical week.

The country consumes the most tobacco worldwide. Up to a million Chinese die each year from lung cancer or heart diseases directly linked to tobacco use. More than half of all male Chinese doctors smoke and some hospitals still allow smoking.

Chinese authorities have said they will ban indoor smoking in public places, but experts are concerned that the regulations will not be enforced.

Meanwhile, Egypt has begun a bold antismoking program aimed at reducing tobacco use, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Ministry of Justice estimates that 20 percent of all adult Egyptians smoke.

The Egyptian campaign uses new taxes and indoor smoking bans. For example, on July 1, the government hiked cigarette taxes 40 percent. The city of Alexandria will soon forbid smoking in every closed public venues.