A large conference on lung cancer was held in Beijing over the weekend, focusing not on the popular topic of China’s heavy air pollution, but rather smoking. Over the past 30 years, deaths in China due to lung cancer has increased by 465 percent. The theme of this year’s conference, according to CCTV, was “Controlling tobacco and promoting the early detection and treatment of lung cancer”. Lung cancer has now replaced liver cancer as the leading form of cancer in China, responsible for 22.7 percent of cancer related Chinese deaths. China now joins the US and many other nations where lung cancer claims the most lives that any other cancer.
China produces 1.7 billion cigarettes per year, 2.5 times as many as the US, the world’s second largest cigarette manufacturer after China. Of the 1.1 billion smokers around the world, 350 million are Chinese (1 in 3 of the world’s smokers, while only 1 in 6 of the world’s population). Although there are some smoking restrictions in public places, they are often not observed. Without changes made in cancer prevention and detection programs, the current 1 million deaths due to smoking related illnesses in China each year will rise to 2 million by 2025, and 3 million by 2050.
Rising concern on the impacts of smoking are particularly interesting in light of the anecdotes we read for class from Hessler that discussed smoking culture in China, its importance in interactions, and its value in social status.