New research published over the weekend highlights the need for urgent action on tobacco control in China, according to the World Health Organization.

"According to (medical journal) The Lancet, as many as one in three Chinese boys and young men alive right now will die from a tobacco-related illness if the current smoking rate in China does not change," said Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO's Representative in China.

"That is tens of millions of sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, colleagues and friends who will die a completely preventable death.

"We can stop these needless deaths. This new research shows that there has never been a more important time to act," he said.

According to the study by researchers from Britain's Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control:

• Two-thirds of all Chinese men included in the research were smokers.

• Chinese men are starting to smoke at a younger age than their fathers and grandfathers.

• As a result, smoking will cause about 20 percent of all adult male deaths in China this decade.

• The annual number of deaths in China caused by tobacco will rise from about 1 million in 2010 to 2 million in 2030 and 3 million in 2050, unless existing smokers quit - and non-smokers are prevented from starting.

 

The new findings highlight the urgent need for strong policy action which will help existing smokers to quit, and ensure that others never start.

"We have seen important progress this year, with the new Beijing smoke-free law in place, and new tobacco advertising restrictions in place. But it is time to rapidly scale up with a nationwide ban on smoking in public places, enforcement of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, graphic warnings on tobacco packs, higher taxes and crucially - support to existing smokers to quit," Schwartländer said.

"A generation of young men's lives, quite literally, is at stake here," he warned.

He also called for improved public access to smoking cessation services in China to help smokers quit.


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