A student from Yangzhou University demonstrates against smoking during a street campaign in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, on Sunday. (Photo: China Daily/Meng Delong)
27 percent of adults maintain cigarette habit, same as 2010
Despite legislation and public education, China hasn't curbed tobacco use. Smoking prevalence remains the same as it was five years ago, a recent national survey found.
The Chinese Adult Tobacco Use Survey 2015 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 27 percent of adults smoked in 2010, the same as now, but the absolute number of smokers has climbed. The total smoking population in China is now 316 million, up 15 million since 2010.
Each smoker, on average, went through 15.2 cigarettes per day, compared with 14 in 2010, when the previous survey was conducted.
More than 15,000 Chinese over age 15 were surveyed for the report that was released on Monday.
Wang Yu, head of the CDC, said, "An all-out effort is urgently needed to advance the public health campaign against smoking here."
Currently, more than half of Chinese male adults and 2.7 percent of women light up, the survey found.
According to Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the tobacco control office of the CDC, the survey looked at tobacco control awareness among members of the public, media attitudes and secondhand smoke exposure.
On the positive side, nonsmokers suffer less passive smoke now in public indoor places, including at work, on public transportation and in homes, the report said.
In 2010, nearly 61 percent of the nonsmokers reported exposure to secondhand smoke in their workplaces. That figure has declined to 54 percent.
Among all work units, government buildings, medical facilities and primary and middle schools saw the most substantial drop, the survey found. That's mainly due to increasing awareness of the health impact of passive smoke, Jiang said.
According to the report, nearly 65 percent of people are aware of the fact that passive smoke, like smoking, can lead to lung cancer. About 42 percent are aware of the link between passive smoke and heart disease.
Jiang said these figures are much higher than what was found in the 2010 survey. "But there remains much to be done."
More than 1 million people die every year in China because of tobacco use. About 740 million are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke, which leads to 100,000 deaths annually.
Bernhard Schwartlander, China Representative for the World Health Organization, said, "If tobacco use is not significantly reduced, it will aggravate the economic and social impact of an aging population, increasing the odds of a future economic slowdown, which will in turn pose a significant social challenge."
Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development, said a national tobacco-control law is needed.
To date, many Chinese cities, including Beijing, have introduced public smoking bans and other legal measures to control the effects of tobacco. Such moves, the report found, have been well received by the general public.
More than 93 percent of those polled expressed support for smoking bans at hospitals and schools.
But support for bans was lower for restaurants (69 percent) and bars (41 percent).