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Yao joins China anti-smoking drive
Basketball star Yao Ming joins campaign urging 350 million Chinese smokers to quit.
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2009 08:37 GMT
Houston Rockets star Yao Ming is one of China's best-known celebrities [GALLO/GETTY]

China's biggest sports star Yao Ming has joined a high profile anti-tobacco campaign aimed at persuading around 350 million Chinese smokers to kick the habit.

Named as an ambassador to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control (CATC), the Houston Rockets' centre is expected to appear in new TV and poster adverts pushing the anti-smoking message, state media said.

Yao will reportedly appear in the campaign alongside popular singing star Peng Liyuan, who is also the wife of China's vice president, Xi Jinping.

"We hope the celebrities would inspire more people to join in anti-smoking activities," Xu Guihua, deputy director of the CATC, was quoted as saying.

"The public should be advised to lead a healthier life without the influence of tobacco use."

According to anti-smoking campaigners, China consumes a massive one third of tobacco products sold worldwide.

Growing market

Smoke signals


China is world's largest tobacco producer, accounting for a quarter of all leaf production.

 One in every three cigarettes smoked worldwide is smoked in China.

 One million Chinese die every year from smoking-related diseases.

 If present trends continue, forecasts have said deaths could hit three million a year by 2050.

 Smoking is expected to kill one third of all Chinese men under 30.

Source: WHO

While smoking is on the decline in many Western countries, China is one of the world's fastest growing smoking markets with public surveys showing a low awareness of the health risks.

About 350 million Chinese, or more than a quarter of the population, are smokers and health officials say about one million Chinese die every year from lung cancer or other smoking-related illnesses.

Tens of millions more are put at risk by passive smoking, because of the lax enforcement of rules banning smoking in public places.

In 2006 China endorsed the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, but officials admit progress on enforcing its measures has been slow.

Recently the government has stepped up measures to encourage people to stop smoking and to educate children not to smoke.

But in many parts of China the tobacco industry is encouraged as an important tax contributor and employer.

Earlier this year, officials in one country in central Hubei province reportedly ordered state employees, including schoolteachers, to smoke more locally-made cigarettes in order to support the region's economy.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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