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A group of experts say smoking could kill 3.5 million people in China each year by 2030. They are calling for new laws to curb the habit. But they admit it will be difficult because of an 'addiction' to the huge tax revenue earned by state owned tobacco companies.
More than 60 experts in China and abroad have compiled the report, Tobacco Control and China's Future. They say the medical and social costs of smoking is net 60 billion yuan per year—about $9 billion U.S. dollars—cancelling out the tax revenue it brings.
One of the biggest obstacles to tougher smoking measures in China is that the Chinese regime's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration sets the rules, but also administers the world's largest cigarette maker, China National Tobacco Corp.
The study calls for far-reaching measures to reduce smoking. Co-author Yang Gonghuan from China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention is skeptical.
[Yang Gonghuan, Deputy Director, Disease Control and Prevention Center]:
"The lack of progress made by those departments that have affiliations with the tobacco industry has cancelled out these efforts towards tobacco control."
Five years ago the Chinese regime signed the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and promised to ban tobacco advertisements and smoking in enclosed spaces by January 2011. But last month those plans were postponed for another five years.
Last year Chinese state media reported dozens of elementary schools around the country are sponsored by Tobacco companies, displaying signs in playgrounds stating, "Tobacco helps you to be successful."
There are nearly 300 million smokers in China and the habit kills more than 1 million people every year. The study predicts that smoking could kill 3.5 million people per year by 2030 and cause 25 per cent of all deaths.