Běijīng, We Have a Problem: Smoking in China

One of our favorite Shanghai restaurants has “no smoking” signs, but some people still smoke there

Dad started smoking when he was three years old.  A family story is that at 10 and already smoking,  Dad’s  big brother, Burl,  got his little brother to smoke too.   People in the U.S. then didn’t know the hazards of smoking.

Dad might still be with us if he hadn’t smoked

At 65, Dad died a painful death of brain and lung cancer.  Uncle Burl died of liver cancer.  Both causes were tobacco related.

Today in China about 1 million people a year die of smoking related causes, but according to “The Heavy Smoke over China” by Alex Hoegberg in the May 2012 That’s Zhejiang only one in four  Chinese people recognizes that smoking is bad for their health–and the health of those around them!

My Chinese students have told me that tobacco is good because of all the jobs it provides.  The only non-Chinese tobacco company allowed to sell cigarettes in China is Phillip Morris, so thousands of Chinese are involved in the growing, producing, and selling tobacco.

People smoke everywhere on the streets of Shanghai

Many look like they enjoy the smoking–but they are likely to have very painful deaths.

It’s the men we see smoking.  Chinese girls usually hide their smoking habits.

Dying for a cigarette?

China is the biggest producer and consumer of  tobacco–350 million Chinese smoke.  Three million more Chinese start smoking each year.  According to Xin, Dingding (2009-12-11) in  “Smoke-free list extends to healthcare facilities” China Daily, 60% of the Chinese doctors smoke!

Although the Chinese government banned smoking in public places starting last May, it is a rule that is not enforced.    Gifting cigarettes is a part of the culture.  At the wedding we  attended last summer, cigarettes were forced on all of us.  Giving cigarettes is seen as  a sign of friendship and respect.

Lining up to buy cartoons of cigarettes at the Shangahi airport duty-free shop

Tell everyone–

Please stop smoking

Since 1988, the World Health Assembly celebrates May 31  as “World No-Tobacco Day.”   The 2012 theme is – tobacco industry interference: (http://www.altiusdirectory.com/Society/2008/04/may-31st-world-no-tobacco-day-history.html)

The  World Health Organization notes that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of all deaths (http://www.globalissues.org/article/533/tobacco).

Although the Chinese government is making great strides in increasing health care to its citizens, tobacco regulation isn’t enforced.  Perhaps because the Chinese government receives one of its largest tax revenues from the tobacco industry, which produces 42% of the world’s cigarettes, those no-smoking laws are ignored.

The tobacco industry is a huge.  It continues to  kill loved people all over the world.

China needs to tell its people.

And even in the U.S. and countries that know the dangers of smoking, people smoke.  A recent study in Wisconsin notes that while the percentage of adults smoking has held at 20% for years, it is now moving up.

In recognition of world-wide annual “No Tobacco Day”–May 31 — remind everyone you know–stop smoking–for themselves and those who love them.

Dad didn’t live long enough to meet Barry’s and my son.  That loss is sad for all of us.

Please stop smoking.

Aloha and zaì jiàn,  Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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