Washington: Almost 13 million lives could be saved by 2050 in China if the country implements tobacco control measures laid out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
China is the most populous nation in the world and is home to about a third of the world's smokers, with male smoking rates of greater than 50 percent.
China is also the world's largest tobacco product manufacturer through a government-owned tobacco company.
In 2003, China joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which mandates a comprehensive set of tobacco control policies.
These include surveillance and monitoring of tobacco use prevalence, creation of smoke-free environments, treatment of tobacco dependence, tobacco consumption taxation and other price controls, enforcement of heath warnings on tobacco packages and marketing bans.
“If the status quo is maintained, China faces a tremendous health burden in the next four decades that could result in more than 50 million deaths related to smoking,” says David T. Levy, a population scientist at Georgetown University Medical Centre (GUMC) in Washington, DC.
“If the country completely implemented the WHO policies, almost 13 million deaths would be averted and smoking rates would be reduced by about 40 percent,” he claimed.
Levy and his team utilised a computer simulation programme called SimSmoke to model tobacco smoking prevalence, smoking-attributable death and the impact of tobacco control policies between 2015 and 2050.
The researchers analysed data including China's adult population, current and former smoking prevalence, initiation and cessation rates and past policy levels.
Levy says that according to SimSmoke, raising taxes on tobacco products would have the greatest impact on reducing smoking rates. China has banned smoking on public transportation.
“This task can be achieved by extending effective public health and clinical interventions to reduce active smoking,” they noted in the study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).