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65m Teens Victims Of Second-Hand Smoke

Tobacco-related diseases kill 1m every year

Minnie Chan – Updated on Jul 18, 2008

More than 65 million mainland teenagers have been affected by second-hand smoke, and about 1 million people die from smoking-related diseases every year, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.

Because of the 350 million smokers in the mainland – one-third of the global total – at least 540 million people have become ill because of second-hand smoke, ministry spokesman Mao Qunan said as part of a promotion for tobacco and smoking control.

“Among the 130 million young people, 15 million are regular smokers, and 40 million others had tried smoking,” Mr Mao said, citing this year’s report. “So far 65 million teenagers have suffered from second-hand smoke.”

He pointed out that more than 100,000 mainlanders had died from second-hand smoke and that smoking-related diseases had killed about 1 million annually.

“Many studies forecast that the death toll of smoking-related diseases would double by 2020 to 2 million people a year, and that the cumulative number would be 100 million by 2050, with half of them dying between 35 and 69.”

He blamed fashionable tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in public places for the increase in the number of young smokers.

With almost 2 trillion cigarettes sold every year, the central government introduced restrictions in 1995 to ban all tobacco advertising.

However, indirect tobacco advertisements and footage of popular idols on TV and movies that imply that smoking is mature and sexy had lured more teenagers to smoke, Mr Mao added.

Chen Weiqing, of Sun Yat-sen University’s School of Public Health in Guangzhou, said the lack of health education in schools and homes was also a key reason young people smoked.

“We found many teenagers had not realised that smoking is harmful because teachers and parents do not pay too much attention to smoking control,” he said. “Indeed, teenagers [find it] very easy to buy cigarettes on the streets due to the lack of prevention and loose restrictions.”

Professor Chen, who studied 3,000 students aged 13 to 15 in Guangzhou from 2005 to last year, said he found only 5.5 per cent of the teenagers continued to smoke after taking part in a three-year experimental workshop on smoking control.

“Many students refused to smoke or go near others who smoke after witnessing the deaths of white mice from smoking in our experimental workshops,” he said. “I suggest that our government introduce a smoking control experimental course … into our educational system.”

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