China's Top Officials Told To Stop Smoking

China is home to more than one-fourth of the world's smokers, with at least 300 million citizens lighting up regularly.
Posted at 10:13 PM, Dec 30, 2013

Hoping to curb a deadly nationwide habit, China's government told top officials this week to stop smoking in public spaces and stop using government funds to buy cigarettes.

That's according to China's Xinhua news agency, citing a document distributed to top officials that says their smoking "tarnished the image of Party and government offices and leaders and has a negative influence." (Via Euronews)

China is home to more than 300 million smokers — almost a quarter of its population. And that's made the country the world's number one consumer of tobacco. It's also made the China National Tobacco Corporation rich. (Via CBS)

The company practically has a monopoly on cigarettes in China and is one of the main factors in halting anti-smoking laws. Each year it turns over a whopping 600 billion yuan, or $95 billion USD, to the government as tax revenue. (Via NTDTV)

Which means smoking is a valuable industry to China. On its own, those tobacco taxes are almost enough to cover the nation's $105 billion defense budget. (Via The Guardian)

Of course, while the industry produces massive revenues, China's citizens are paying a heavy price.  

In 1990, China saw 600,000 tobacco-related deaths. That number now sits at about 1 million annually. And the World Health Organization has warned tobacco deaths could double by 2025. 

Over the last five years, China's leaders in Beijing have steadily expanded smoking bans in public spaces, but those laws are often ignored and rarely enforced. Smoking remains a prominent part of Chinese culture, with cigarettes often given as gifts. (Via BON News)

The nation's government seems to have accepted this as a problem. China's own state-run news agency even admitted this week, "Experts are widely critical of the current government effort, which lags far behind the [WHO] standard." (Via Xinhua)

Although the rate of deaths from smoking and secondhand smoke are projected to sharply increase over the next few years, there has been at least one positive trend for China's government. In 1996, 63 percent of Chinese men smoked. Today, about 50 percent do.