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WHO Guidelines Can Prevent 13 Million Smoking Deaths in China by 2050

Update Date: Feb 19, 2014 10:40 AM EST

China, which is one of the largest manufacturers of tobacco, has recently enforced new tobacco laws hoping to reduce the percentage of smokers within the nation. According to a new study, if China continues to be aggressive in adopting anti-smoking regulations recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), the country could potentially prevent 13 million deaths caused by smoking by 2050.

For this report, the researchers, headed by David Levy from the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, used computer modeling in order to estimate the health benefits of getting smokers to quit. Data on fertility and mortality were provided by the United Nations. The team examined the policies that China has already agreed to implement when the nation joined WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) back in 2003. Based from their estimates, the researchers concluded that if all of the policies were carried out, 13 million tobacco-deaths could be avoided. However, if China cannot enforce any of these changes, the country could be faced with over 50 million smoking deaths from 2012 to 2050. This number would be the largest rate of any nation.

"The consequences of inaction are considerable," the authors of the paper expressed according to the AFP. "Without the implementation of the complete set of stronger policies, the death and disability legacy of current smoking will endure for decades in China."

As a part of the FCTC, some of the policies that China would have to follow include creating smoke-free areas, higher taxes, treatment for tobacco dependence, bans on certain advertisements and health warnings. So far, China has increased tobacco tax for producers and wholesalers and has enforced a smoking ban on public transport and other public environments. However, the study reported that the nation has to enforce more bans on marketing. Furthermore, the country has to increase the cost of tobacco products, which could decrease the smoking rates for men and women by 13 and 12 percent respectively by 2050.

"Implementation of FCTC policies would alleviate a substantial portion of the tobacco-related health burden that threatens to slow China's extraordinary gains in life expectancy and prosperity," said the study authors.

More specifically, the researchers reported that a 75 percent tax on tobacco products could lead to a reduction of tobacco-deaths by 3.5 million from 2015 to 2050. A marketing ban could prevent another 2.15 million deaths cased by smoking.

The report was published in the British Medical Journal.

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