Yao joins China anti-smoking drive

Basketball star Yao Ming joins campaign urging 350 million Chinese smokers to quit.

    Houston Rockets star Yao Ming is one of China's best-known celebrities [GALLO/GETTY]

    "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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