WHO Anti-Smoking Measures Could Prevent 13 Million Deaths in China by 2050

    18 March, 2014

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    A new study finds that more than 13 million deaths could be prevented in China over the next 40 years if the country had stronger anti-smoking measures. But the study's authors say China has not taken many steps to control the use of tobacco. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

    China signed the World Health Organization's international treaty on tobacco control in 2003, but it has not put in place many of the WHO's ideas to help people stop smoking. Experts say following with ideas could cut smoking by 40 percent before the year 2050. Without stronger anti-smoking measures, they could be 50 million tobacco-related deaths in the country over that time.

    WHO Anti-Smoking Measures Could Prevent 13 Million Deaths in China by 2050
    A man smokes in front of a "no smoking" sign outside a shopping mall in Shanghai, Jan. 10, 2014.

    The authors of the study used a computer program called SimSmoke to make their predictions.

    David Levy works at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington D.C. He says China has one-third of the world's cigarette smokers. More than half of the men in China smoke.

    Mr Levy say people often begin smoking without knowing it will harm their health. He says people in some countries smoke, because it makes them feel important.

    "Smoking, you know, once it gets established and in many of the low- and middle income countries, you know there's kind of a prestige initially to smoking," Mr Levy said.

    The WHO plan calls for a ban on smoking in all public places. It also calls for countries to place health warnings on cigarette containers, and offer programs to help people stop smoking. And it says there should be higher taxes on tobacco.

    Experts say a 75 percent increase in cigarette taxes could save about 3.5 million lives, they say an end to cigarette advertising could save 2 million lives.

    After signing the WHO agreement, China placed a 12 percent tax on cigarettes, but the government did not force Chinese smokers to pay the tax.

    One of the authors of the new study is Teh-we Hu. He is a professor of public policy economics at the University of California Berkeley.

    Professor Hu says China's cultural and society are changing. He said President Hu Jintao supports an ban on smoking in public. The President also wants people to stop giving cigarettes as gifts to officials and employers.

    Mr Hu says the most effective anti-smoking measures in China would be a large increase in the cigarette tax, but he does not expect that to happen soon.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English. For more stories about health, go to our website 51voa.com. I'm Milagros Ardin.