Come 2025, and at least 2 million lives will be lost each year to smoking-related diseases in China, health experts have warned.
The use of tobacco by Chinese men, 53 percent of whom are smokers, has already peaked.
Every year, some 1 million people die from tobacco-related diseases in China, which is home to about 300 million smokers.
“The crucial time has come for China to implement tougher tobacco control measures, which will be good for both national health and wealth,” Judith Mackay, a Hong Kong-based tobacco control expert said on Thursday at the launch of the Chinese version of The Tobacco Atlas, compiled jointly by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation.
The number of Chinese men who smoke has decreased 3 percent over the past decade, while many other countries have reported a 15 percent drop in tobacco use, said Yang Gonghuang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
An increasing smoking rate among Chinese women, which now stands at 3 percent, is also of deep concern, she said.
“The overall impact of the deadly habit on health will become apparent in 20 years, when the nation will see a sharp rise in smoking-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease, strokes and emphysema, which will result in more deaths,” Yang warned.
According to The Tobacco Atlas, smoking-related diseases have gradually been shifting from the rich countries to those with low and medium incomes.
Currently, Russia, China and Afghanistan have the highest smoking rates in the world, it said.
If the current trend continues, 1 billion people will die from smoking-related diseases across the globe this century and most of the deaths will occur in low and medium income countries, said John R. Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society.
In the last 100 years, smoking-related diseases have killed some 100 million people throughout the world, mostly in western countries, he added.
It has been scientifically proven that smoking is the leading cause of all preventable deaths. In the United States, major tobacco-control efforts have helped the country report a decline in the rate of cancer for the past 16 years, he noted.
Cases of lung cancer among American men annually decreased by 1.8 percent from 1991 to 2006, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In China, however, the rate of cancer, particularly lung cancer, is constantly increasing.
The use of tobacco costs China $5 billion every year in healthcare, employee sick leave, reduced labor productivity, lost tax and premature death, the book said.