Běijīng, We Have a Problem: Smoking in China
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.
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.
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.
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